Board of Trustees approves housing, meal plan price increases for 2019-20 school year

<p>Students getting food at Kleiner Commons. GVL / Andrew Nyhof</p>

Students getting food at Kleiner Commons. GVL / Andrew Nyhof

Olivia Fellows

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On Friday, Feb. 8, Grand Valley State University’s Board of Trustees approved price increases for on-campus housing and meal plans for the 2019-2020 academic year. The unanimous vote increased housing costs by $17 per semester and main meal plan costs by $50 per semester. The total increase was 2.2 percent — $1.2 million increase overall. 

The decision by the board was reached following reviews of GVSU’s tuition costs, as well as the costs of facility operations and student employment. Each year, the board addresses the housing and dining rates in February and tuition rates in July. The July date gives the administration time to factor in enrollment numbers for the fall in calculating tuition rates it proposes to trustees.

Chairperson Mary Kramer said the choice to raise prices was not without serious consideration of the already high tuition rates in Michigan as well as factoring in debt accumulated through renovations of on-campus facilities and other components.  

“Besides the hard costs of energy, paying staff (and) buying and preparing food, we have debt of $17 million on new housing that’s already been constructed — plus we’ll be spending almost $6 million for repairs and renovation to housing and dining facilities,” Kramer said. 

“It’s also important to note that the housing and dining departments employ more than 1,000 students.” 

While these statements may be fear-inducing to many students, GVSU’s increases are lower than tuition hikes and pricing at other Michigan universities. The annual increases at GVSU are $134, compared to $300 average from other in-state universities — a 1.5 percent increase that is less than other five-year university increases of 3.2 percent. 

The increases were also approved to incorporate student worker and staff raises. Kramer explained that due to the growing numbers of students enrolling at GVSU, price increases were necessary to accommodate the influx of new students. 

“The inequity in state funding for GVSU leaves us near the bottom of the 15 state universities in terms of the per-student funding we receive,” Kramer said. “Unfortunately, the state legislature has not changed the funding formula for state universities since the 1970s. The formula penalizes us for enrollment growth. We’re hopeful that a new governor and turnover in the state Legislature may soon reconsider how higher education is funded in this state.” 

The number of students living on campus remained steady this semester at 5,647 compared to 5,650 in 2018 and an additional 100 students signed up for a meal plan this winter. 

Kramer added that the board voted to increase student aid by more than 11 percent for the 2018-2019 school year due to the cost increases in hopes of taking some of the burden of cost off of students. Kramer hopes that students will find convenience and value in the housing and meal plans they choose, as the price increases have allowed GVSU to build many of the new housing units on campus for incoming students, as well as giving more money per paycheck to students who work on campus. 

“There is a rhythm to the financial decisions we make,” Kramer said. “Trustees are mindful of the cost of education; that’s why we increased student aid for 2018-19. I don’t think we ever have a board meeting where we don’t discuss the cost of higher education.”