VSG bill calls for university to eliminate $675 price disparity between residential college halls and other living spaces

The bill says the additional fee is inconsistent with the University’s stated mission to “prevent segregated living based on a student’s ability to pay”

photo by Claire Barnett

The University will charge a residential college experience fee of $337.50 each semester for residents of Warren and Moore and E. Bronson Ingram college halls upon Board of Trustees approval, according to the 2018-2019 Guide to Housing Assignment Process. The fee is intended to fund community programming, which could include the cost of speakers, food, setup and marketing materials.

The Vanderbilt Student Government Senate passed a bill on April 4 that urged University administration to reconsider the extra costs involved with being a member of the residential colleges since, “ a differential cost among certain residence halls may lead some students to choose not to live there,” according to the bill.

“Extravagant amounts of money are spent on programs and activities that aren’t well attended,” said Moore Senator Tam Wheat at the VSG Senate session. “At the least, I think that there could be a reduction in these costs.”

Dean of Students Mark Bandas said that the residential housing fee will help the university actualize the residential college experience by funding programming, which will make the community model on the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons available to students for all four years.

“We believe that students and parents will see, in a very tangible way, how that cost is providing a tremendous value to the residential experience,” said Bandas.

At a town hall in February, Senior Director of Housing Operations Jim Kramka said that Vanderbilt was committed to keeping a flat rate for housing costs in order to be inclusive to all financial situations on campus.

“Vanderbilt is committed to a unified housing regiment,” said Kramka. “You pay the same. You don’t want people to have to not live somewhere because they can’t afford it. We have seen that in the past.”

According to Bandas, students were informed throughout the housing process about the fee and the fee information was provided when in the housing application, which students had to sign. Bandas said that the colleges were very popular with the student body and around five students applied for each available residential college spot.

Additionally, students will see a change to the meal plan offerings in the coming year. Instead of a 12 meals per week plan, students living in the residential colleges will be required to participate in the 14 Meal Plan for residential colleges. Plans will cost the same regardless of whether they’re residential or not, but residential meal plans include access to residential meal events. 

“Meal plan rates received a 4.5% increase to accommodate a number of increased costs including food inflation and significant wage increases to our service level employees,” said Executive Director of Campus Dining Dan ter Kuile.

These rising costs will continue to be covered by different aid programs such as Experience Vanderbilt and Financial Aid.

“For students who are receiving Opportunity Vanderbilt (need-based) funding, that additional fee will be added into each student’s cost of attendance just as any other tuition and fee charge and will be used to determine eligibility for need-based financial aid,” Bandas said.

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