The Cost Of Room and Board


On Feb. 26, more than 10,000 students will pay $450 to the Syracuse University Bursar Office. Every student received an email in late January (about a week ago), stating that he or she must pay $450 to the Bursar’s Office to reserve a spot in the upcoming housing lottery. Every year more than 10,000 students enter the housing lottery to determine where they will live on campus next year. Seventy-five percent of SU undergrads live on campus all four years, a relatively high percentage compared students at colleges such as Boston University and Cornell University, where 60 percent and 57 percent of undergrads live on campus all four years.

SU students who choose to stay are assigned a lottery number based on the number of semesters they have previously lived on campus. Once their number comes up?, students can select rooms ranging from a one-person suite to a four-person apartment to the ever-popular open double dorm room. These rooms range in prices from $5,045 dollars per semester at the Park Point apartments to $2880 per semester at Kimmel Hall.

According to the Syracuse University Department of Housing, Meal Plans and ID Card Services, freshmen and sophomores must fulfill a two-year on campus housing requirement, with two exceptions. The first is if they live somewhere in the greater Syracuse area and commute to school, and the second is that a few sophomores may live in their fraternity or sorority houses. If a student fails to comply with this housing requirement he or she will be billed an additional $4475 per semester, or the equivalent to the cost of a South Campus apartment.

Some students think the two-year housing requirement is a monopoly, especially given the harsh penalty for breaking it. “Some people can’t afford to live on campus for two years. Living off campus is a lot cheaper,” Mackenzie Lynch, a junior finance major, who currently lives off campus said.

Other’s said it is not about the price. They claim the housing requirement ensures that students are responsible enough to live without supervision. “It is for safety purposes. The freshman on my floor couldn’t live by themselves. This is the first time in their life they don’t have 24-hour supervision, but I think the price of housing is too high to mandate,” said Chad Muratev, a junior sports management major and Resident Advisor in Day Hall.

During interviews for this story, every source was asked if he or she knew how the Department of Housing calculates the cost of room and board, or how much the costs changed between last year and this year. None of them did. The Department of Housing was asked how these costs are calculated and failed to respond to multiple emails, telephone calls and even a drop-in to the office.

According to the Syracuse University Office of Financial Aid’s website, during the 2012-2013 school year the average cost of room and board was $13,692. This is an increase of $842 or 6.6 percent over the last two years (during the 2010-2011 academic year the average cost of room and board was $12,850). The students interviewed were all asked why they thought the price of room and board increased since last year. Only one provided an answer. Vince Makowski, a junior civil engineering major who lives on SU’s South Campus, said, “Maybe it has to do with inflation or the cost of energy.” Actually, inflation is down 1.3 percent since 2011 and energy prices peaked in 2011.

During the 2012-2013 academic year the average cost of room and board at a college in the United States was $9,135. The college with the highest room and board charges was Fordham University, with an average cost of $15,374. SU’s neighbor, SUNY ESF, charges on average $14,400, which makes it one of the 10 most expensive in the country. Both state and private universities have continually increased the cost of room and board, but how has this affected students.

More students are commuting to school. Fifty-one percent of college students live at home with their parents and commute to school everyday. At SU, though, only five percent of undergrads commute. “My dad drives to campus for work everyday. It was possible for me to commute, but I don’t think you get the full college experience. In Madrid I live over 20 minutes away from school and its tough to get back and forth,” said Mike Downes, a junior information technology major who is studying aboard this semester.

Some students think commuting is bad for social reasons. “The people you hang out with are not your friends from class. They are the people you live with and go out with every night. I think being a commuter makes it hard to become part of the student body,” Lynch said.

With the high cost of room and board and the downsides of commuting, is SU losing students? Are potential students opting to go to other schools? None of the students interviewed considered the cost of room and board when selecting a school. They looked at overall tuition cost and reputation. The effects of high room and board costs on a university’s enrollment remain unknown.

In less than four weeks, thousands of students will pay to secure their spot in the housing lottery. They don’t know where exactly they will live or precisely how much it will cost, but one thing they do know is that it will cost more next year than this year.