University Housing received approximately $36 million in revenue this year from on-campus residents and other smaller services, an approximate $10 million increase from last year. This boost in earnings is a result of the phase II opening of Poly Canyon Village Apartments, which opened up 1,100 more beds to students. With the final phase opening, Poly Canyon alone is expected to bring in approximately $14 million. But even with this additional money, University Housing retains much debt and many fees to pay.
Receiving no additional aid from the university or the state, Executive Director Preston Allen said it’s up to University Housing to make what money it receives from students and other smaller services work.
“Housing kind of floats its own boat,” Allen said. “Whether it sinks or fails is housing’s responsibility (so) the money (we) have needs to cover everything.”
With about 6,500 students living on-campus right now, Poly Canyon Village, Cerro Vista Apartments and the residence halls are at full capacity.
The on-campus housing fees reflect a 4 percent increase from last year for each living facility. Allen said the jump is based on the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI), which University Housing uses as a benchmark when deciding living fees. Calculated by the Commonfund Institute (a subdivision of non-profit organization, Commonfund, that provides investment information and promotes informed financial management), the HEI is a price index meant to aid schools in creating future budgets. This year, the index, which is free to all colleges and universities in the United States, recommended a 3-5 percent jump based on eight categories, such as staff salaries, operating costs and utilities.
“Whatever I can do to keep costs low, I want to do it,” Allen said. “Part of my purpose is to offer affordable housing to students.”
But even with the 4 percent increase and the additional money coming in from Poly Canyon, University Housing still has a large debt to pay. This year, alone it is required to pay about $15.8 million, which will go toward paying off the more than $300 million debt from building Poly Canyon and Cerro Vista.
Each student pays a quarterly or yearly fee according to where they live. Students in Poly Canyon Village Apartments pay $6,365, Cerro Vista Apartment occupants pay $6,218 and students living in the residence halls pay $5,383 a year. The price difference is based on the relative newness of each living area.
Two other obligations that University Housing has to meet are payments to the Chancellor’s Office and into a California State University (CSU) pool. The Chancellor’s Office payment is for general work done on all the 23 CSU campuses and to support the Chancellor’s Office of Operation. The CSU pool is a yearly contribution from every campus’ university housing section to aid other CSU on-campus housing facilities. The amount owed is based off a percentage of how much each on-campus housing facility is bringing in, and can change every year. The goal of the pool is to help a campus’ university housing pay off costs when it can’t do so alone, proving that what affects one campus, affects all. When one campus’s university housing needs help, the other 22 campus housing facilities are billed.
“It reflects the enormity of the housing community on the CSU campuses,” Allen said.
Even then, University Housing still has a list of facility projects that need to get done. With Poly Canyon still being so new, the majority of these projects are aimed at maintaining the residence halls and Cerro Vista. For the 2009-10 year, University Housing estimates spending $715,000 on projects, including a restroom renovation in Yosemite and a volleyball court renovation in Sierra Madre. Business freshman Jamie Dehn said she is happy with the condition of Sierra Madre for all the money University Housing puts into it.
“Our bathrooms are always really clean,” she said. “Everything is always very well kept (and) works really well.”
Even though there is an almost $1,000 difference between Poly Canyon Village and the residence halls, agricultural science sophomore James Neumann said it’s worth it to pay a little more.
“You pay more, but you also have your own room, your own privacy, better accommodations, and you don’t have to share your own bathroom,” he said. “I lived in Cerro Vista last year for the same reason.”
Despite these expenses and other dues for the on-campus housing pool, staff salaries and basic operating costs, University Housing had enough money from operating costs to install Direct TV and add the NFL package to the televisions at Einstein’s Bagels in Poly Canyon. While Neumann said he doesn’t believe it’s a good use of student money, Dehn said she doesn’t mind as long as it doesn’t increase student housing costs.
“I personally don’t watch NFL,” she said, “but I know there’s a ton of people who are into football so I think it’s fine.”
After all fees, project payments, the Poly Canyon mortgage, operating expenses and salaries are paid, Allen estimates to have an $8,000 surplus. This $8,000 is then immediately split into seven reserves, which are used to build additional housing facilities, maintain residence halls, pay for damage done during a natural disaster and upgrade and add new technology to student facilities, among others. The amount that is allocated to each reserve is dictated by a housing reserve policy put in place by the Student Housing Task Force in 1994.
Overall, Dehn said she is happy with the way University Housing is handling her money and doesn’t mind the extra cost to live in the residence halls because she wanted to get the dorm experience.
“I think one of the most important things about college is learning how to live with people,” she said. “You learn how to share your space when you live in the dorms (so) I think it’s totally worth it.”
University Housing prevents community advisors from talking to the Mustang Daily without permission, so they were unable to comment.