Between April 17 and April 22, Gustavus students who will not be living off-campus next year went through the new Room Draw process and found that many of their on-campus housing options had an added fee. While a number of on-campus options are available to students for a flat fee of 5,600 dollars, certain on-campus options including apartments, houses, townhomes, suites and reduced-occupancy rooms require students to pay an additional surcharge to live in them, which can be a big deciding factor in one’s housing decision.
“Having certain facilities that cost more than others is pretty common in colleges,” Director of Residential Life Charlie Potts said. “They cost more for various reasons, including more space, in some cases there are more bathrooms available, some of them have kitchens, some are cleaned by custodians and some have nicer, newer amenities.”
Augsburg College and St. Catherine’s University also have different on-campus housing fees depending on where their students are living, but unlike Gustavus, they do not have base fees for certain residences. Each residence hall has different fees based on type of room (doubles, triples, apartments, etc.) and based on how many people will be living in the room.
Some students disagree with all or some of the additional surcharges for on-campus housing.
“I understand why they might be required for apartments and suites because of the benefits like kitchens, bathrooms and additional space that they provide,” Junior Nate Olson said. “I don’t know why Uhler triples and quads have surcharges though, and I don’t think they should have them.”
While the Uhler rooms may not feature benefits like kitchens, bathrooms or custodial cleaning, Residential Life has reasons for the additional fees.
“The reason for surcharges in the Uhler rooms is the decreased occupancy,” Potts said. More students used to be placed in each room and so students are paying for more space for fewer people.
Housing surcharges are determined by the college’s budget committee and are adjusted each year. The money that is gathered from surcharges goes back to general college funds, and from that general fund, Residential Life requests a portion each year for operations and residential events.
“The only reason I know about surcharges is because other students talk about them,” Olson said. “If I didn’t hear about it from other students, I don’t think I’d realize that I had to pay more until the charge showed up on my bill.”
The lack of transparency on housing surcharges is something that was discussed by next year’s Student Senate Co-Presidents, Junior Tasha Ostendorf and Senior Josh Sande during elections earlier this spring.
“We think more investigation needs to be done into the subject of surcharges,” Sande said. “I was talking to Phil Helt (‘11), who was the Senate Health and Housing Chair before he graduated, and he said that he thought surcharges were going to be re-evaluated. So one thing we’d like to do next year is to re-open that conversation.”
“We’d at least like to educate people about surcharges, and ensure that students know about them and know how expensive they are,” Ostendorf said.
“I think we’re lucky that our college has various styles of housing, like standard doubles, but also really nice places,” Potts said. “Not all colleges have that opportunity. Some of those options have extra amenities and extra costs come along with that.”
More information on on-campus housing can be found on the Gustavus Residential Life website at https://gustavus.edu/reslife/.