McQuade: Housing costs more, but so does life in Philly

The raise in residence hall fees coincides with a raise in cost of living.

A little less than a year ago, the 27-story Morgan Hall opened. Students were astonished: upperclassmen reveled in its grandeur; incoming students came to a pause, their eyes transfixed and reflecting the glass that glimmered. Temple had literally reached a new peak.

Now, the university plans to reach the top again, only this time, the top means higher residence hall rates.

Last month, the Board of Trustees approved a rise in residence hall prices. The proposal will include an average rate increase of 3.86 percent – more specifically, there will a 2.8 percent increase for Peabody, Johnson and Hardwick halls, as well as a 7.5 percent increase in one-person apartments at 1300 residence hall and Morgan Hall.

So the next time you scan your most recent Temple billing statement, don’t shudder when you notice the change in numbers.

Within the last few months, various colleges have increased their residence hall rates as well. The University of Iowa recently announced a “modest” 3.5 percent increase. At Washington State University, a 3.2 percent increase. George Washington University: about 3 percent. California State University, Sacramento is deciding on a nearly 6 percent increase.

Although the numbers may seem alarming at first, what must be taken into account is the fact that many of the rooms the university offers, like  those in Johnson, Hardwick and Peabody halls, are double bedrooms. Ken Kaiser, Temple’s vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer, said a significant number of rooms – more than 1,200 – had an increase of only 2.8 percent; single rooms in complexes like Morgan Hall were the reasons for a higher average.

Kaiser noted that the factors that contribute to room rates range from rising utility costs to salaries, among others. The university plans accordingly and adjusts the rates of rooms based on these numbers, he said.

The university also considers the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Philadelphia-Wilmington-Atlantic City 2014 Consumer Price Index in room and board price adjustments. There was a 1.7 percent increase in its housing section from 2013, which includes the average price of shelter, fuels and utilities, and household furnishing and operations in the area. The aforementioned fuels and utilities category, which includes housing essentials like electricity, shows a rise of nearly 3 percent compared to last year.

Moreover, while schema such as the Consumer Price Index are not the sole factor analyzed when adjusting room and board rates, they provide a relatively accurate foundation for assessing financial matters.  With these figures in mind, the increases at hand begin to seem more reasonable than previously thought.

Dispelling a view some students might hold, Kaiser further added that the university’s housing system is not a “profit-driven business” – rather, it is one that aims to “break even and not take other resources away from the university.”

Even if the room rates may shock many students – especially freshmen – these raises are not much to worry about. As the spring semester draws to an end, one can only hope that the rates will eventually find themselves soaring down from the top story.

Romsin McQuade can be reached at

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