Pop-up thrift stores will be located near Cal Poly's residence halls. Credit: File Photo | Mustang News

University Housing plans to increase on-campus housing costs by 6% for residence halls and 9% for apartments beginning the 2021-2022 academic year, according to Jo Campbell, Executive Director of University Housing.

This rent increase comes as a result of the financial effects COVID-19 has had on University Housing, according to Campbell. Despite the $7.9 million loan University Housing borrowed from University Union funds at the beginning of this academic year, University Housing’s reserves have been “practically wiped out,” according to Campbell.

Due to lack of funds in their savings account, University Housing worked with Cal Poly’s budget office and Administration & Finance to create multiple proposals of on-campus housing rent increases. University housing presented two different recommendations to the Inter Housing Council (IHC), Cal Poly’s residential student government. 

The first proposal was a 4% rent-increase for all on-campus housing. The second proposal was a 6% rent increase for residence halls and a 9% increase for apartments. With support from University Housing, IHC voted to support the latter.

The proposal was then sent to Vice President of Student Affairs, Keith Humphrey, for his approval. The proposal then goes on to Cynthia Vizcaíno Villa, the Senior Vice President of Administration & Finance, for her support.

Despite the support of IHC and the Vice Presidents of Student Affairs and Administration & Finance, the ultimate decision is made by President Jeffrey Armstrong.

University Housing is currently following the chain of command for approval and Campbell strongly anticipates that the 6% to 9% rent increase will be approved for the next academic year.

Along with the rent increase, University Housing plans to increase the housing grant for low-income students, according to Campbell. Currently, students with an estimated family contribution of $6,000 or less are automatically granted this financial assistance. Campbell did not mention what the specific grant increase would be when speaking during the Feb. 22 ASI Board of Directors workshop.

Despite the increase in the housing grant for low-income students, many ASI Board of Directors voiced their concern for the on-campus housing increase. Multiple board members worried about the financial effects the rent increase will have on students as Cal Poly’s two-year housing requirement is rolling out.

For the current academic year, students in both the College of Architecture & Environmental Design (CAED) and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) are required to live on campus for two years. Beginning the 2021-2022 academic year, students from the College of Engineering will be included in the two-year housing requirement as well, according to Campbell.

Multiple board members worried that the combination of an increase in rent prices for on-campus housing and the mandatory two-year housing requirement would put a further financial strain on low-income students.

“I remember when I was a freshman and looking at housing for the next year, I couldn’t even consider housing on campus, as it was much more expensive than what I could find off campus,” ASI Board of Director Haley Fernandes said during the Feb. 22 ASI Board of Directors workshop. “So I’m sure that many other freshmen are thinking the same thing right now.”

Multiple board members questioned if financial limitations would be a valid reason for exemption from the two-year housing requirement. While lack of financial ability is not listed under the approved two-year housing exemptions on the University Housing’s website, Campbell noted that a representative from University Financial Aid sits on the exemption committee. Therefore, a student’s financial need and overall cost of attendance will be examined to decide whether or not a student should live on campus for their second year, according to Campbell.

In addition, ASI Board of Director, Parker Swanson, voiced his concerns over the effects this on-campus housing increase and two-year housing requirement will have on Cal Poly’s overall diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Has the university taken into consideration the negative impact that mandating two years of on-campus living, which is going to increase the overall price tag of pursuing a Cal Poly education, could have on recruiting students from diverse backgrounds,” Swanson said during the Feb. 22 ASI Board Workshop.

The proposal for an increase in on-campus housing costs is currently in the process of being approved by the Vice Presidents of Student Affairs and Administration & Finance as well as President Jeffrey Armstrong for his final approval. However, Campbell is confident that the proposal will be approved and rent costs will increase by 6% to 9% for the next academic year.

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