State universities requesting room and board increases to handle higher costs

DES MOINES — The Board of Regents heard the first presentation last week of proposed room and board rate increases at the three state schools.

University of Iowa vice president for student life, Von Stange says increasing staff is part of the reason they are requesting a 4.9% percent increase. “We have made gains in staffing over the past year, but we continue to be short staffed in critical areas, often due to our salaries for skilled trades not being competitive with a local and regional market,” he says. Stange says labor costs, material costs and supply chain issues have increased their construction costs for keeping housing and dining facilities up to date. “A bathroom conversion from community to single user in our halls 10 years ago cost six million dollars. Five years ago, it was eight million, today, it will cost 14-million dollars,” Stange says. 

He says seven of the 11 residence halls are between 55 and 70 years old, and two more are more than 85 years old, and the dining operations were renovated 20 to 25 years ago. Stange says increased demand for housing has led to the decision to operate they Mayflower dorm for another year.

Michael Harwood from the Iowa State University Department of Residence says they are seeking a room and board increase of five-point-eight percent as they face increased costs for labor and supplies. “An additional hurdle that we are facing at Iowa State is our facilities. Seventeen of our 20 residence halls are between 53 and 110 years old, and several have deferred maintenance needs that we  must address,” Harwood says.  Harwood says student leaders approved a resolution saying they would support the increase. “Their resolution included a statement encouraging DOR to pursue building improvements that positively impact students such as air conditioning, and bathroom renovations,” he says.

Harwood says they began this year at 98% of capacity for the year with more than  94% of the first year class living on campus, and an increasing number of students wanting to return to live in the residence halls.

The University of Northern Iowa’s Nick Raffanello says they are seeking a 3.5% increase as they face an increase is students wanting to live in the dorms. “This fall we saw more than 31-hundred students living on campus, which is our highest occupancy since 2019. Additionally, we saw more than 34 percent of students choosing to live on campus, which has the highest percentage of students living on campus since 2016. And the majority of those students living on campus for at least two years,” Raffanello says.

He says it doesn’t look like the demand will let up. “Current students have recently completed the contracting process for next fall and we have seen an increase of 15 percent in our returning student contracts over the same time last year,” he says. “Additionally, we have a 10 percent increase in the number of students choosing to return to live on campus for a third year. ”

The Board of Regents will not take any action on the proposed rates until their April meeting.