Washing machines in the Lewis laundry room. (Photo by Emily Gonçalves)
Washing machines in the Lewis laundry room. (Photo by Emily Gonçalves)

Vanderbilt laundry machine costs persist despite many other TN schools transitioning to include fees in housing charges

Attempts to avoid raising housing costs and providing other services are responsible for the continued system

September 1, 2019

Vanderbilt residence hall charges: $11,044. Meals: $5,866. Laundry? $1.50 per wash cycle, $1.50 per dry cycle.

Vanderbilt is one of the few schools in the Tennessee region that charges per load for laundry. Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) includes laundry in their housing fee, a spokesperson said. Belmont University does not separately charge students to use their laundry facilities either, according to Belmont Office of Residence Life Office Manager Mallory Newkirk. Laundry is also included in housing costs for University of Tennessee, Knoxville, a UTK representative said.

At Vanderbilt, however, all students living on campus pay for laundry per load, totaling $3 to wash and dry a load of laundry. 

Despite including laundry in their room and board costs, these other schools do not charge more than Vanderbilt for housing and dining. Belmont’s estimated room and board cost for the 2019-2020 academic year is $12,520. The out-of-state estimated cost for MTSU students is only $8,976. And at UTK, estimated room and board totals $11,482. Vanderbilt’s combined costs for housing and dining sums to $16,910, according to the Vanderbilt website’s estimated charges for this academic year.

Laundry is not included for residents because the university attempts to avoid increasing costs for housing, Senior Director of Housing Jim Kramka said. Included in the university’s costs for housing are things like regulating temperature and updating fire systems. 

“The question would be, if we absorb the laundry costs, what are we not going to do instead?” Kramka said.

Under the current system, the money collected by laundry machines is split between the university and a contractor, Caldwell and Gregory, who provides and maintains the laundry facilities on campus.

According to Kramka, a significant reason Vannderbilt housing charges are more expensive than those of Belmont, a private university right down the road, is that Vanderbilt invests in high quality buildings. University buildings are made of concrete and steel instead of wood, and while more expensive, these buildings have fewer problems in the long run, Kramka said.

Adding laundry to the housing fee could not only force the university to re-prioritize its expenditures, but it could also increase the costs of maintaining laundry facilities overall, Kramka said. For example, if using washers and dryers were free, students living off campus may come and use campus laundry facilities, increasing the use of the machines.

While Vanderbilt reevaluates the budget and considers whether to change the system annually, his office receives very few complaints from students regarding laundry costs, he said.

Kramka acknowledged that the university is aware that other schools provide laundry to students as a part of their housing fees and also recognizes that the extra cost of laundry can place a burden on some students. However, when considering changing the system, it’s important to think long-term, he said.

“If you give something, it’s very difficult to take it back,” Kramka said.

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