The Residence Hall Association
To the editor,
As the Executive President and President-elect of the Residence Hall Association (RHA), we are writing this letter on behalf of our organization and the residents we represent.
Earlier this semester, the university announced plans to again raise the room rates for the 2016-2017 school year. The 3.5 percent increase in room rates marks a continuing trend as evidenced by the approximate 14 percent increase in housing costs since 2012-2013.
Knowing students were frustrated and felt unheard, we sent out a survey in an attempt to give voice to their concerns. After receiving over 500 responses, there was no question: Residents feel frustrated by the increasing rates, misled by communication and justifications from administration and wronged by certain housing policies that harm our community. As an organization dedicated to creating the best residential experience possible, we felt it was crucial to begin looking for some answers.
Seeing frustrations about cost as a primary concern, we pushed hard to find out where residents’ money really goes. While the administrators we worked with were able to provide insight, there are still gaps in the information that they were unable to explain.
Why is Greek Life paid for by every resident as part of room costs? Why does the debt burden for new residence halls fall to residents alone? How does the university justify charging residents a three percent “auxiliary tax” that doesn’t contribute to housing expenses? These questions, and more, remain unanswered. However we continue to ask questions and will post all of the information we collect at rha.case.edu.
Information about what we pay for (and why) is not something we should need administrators to explain, much less have to hunt down. Beyond the monetary considerations, we are struck by a feeling that certain aspects of housing rates are kept out of the public sphere to make Case Western Reserve University more appealing and maintain our high residential percentages. This doesn’t serve our residents.
Additionally, the administration needs to take a serious look at how they communicate with students and each other. There should be close ties between the offices of financial aid, housing, campus services and student affairs so that information about housing rates, policies and financial aid is both accessible and correct.
Clear, digestible information should be dispersed to prospective and admitted students yearly about expected increases and financial aid policies surrounding housing. It is unfair to offer lucrative financial aid packages without providing more information about potential changes. Additionally, when working to determine housing costs, the administration should look at what is best for CWRU students. The most common justification of our prices is not the expenses of our campus, but the pricing of our peers. While benchmarking can be helpful, we are not other schools: We are CWRU, and our administration is here to support our experience as well as our rankings.
RHA will be hosting an open forum with administration from the Office of University Housing, the Office of Financial Aid, the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Services in the coming weeks to give students a platform to ask questions and express their concerns. Additionally, we will be working with the Development office to target donors and increase fundraising for our housing facilities so that our debt load does not continue to impact future CWRU students.
Students coming to CWRU should have an opportunity to live in a positive, supportive community without worrying if they can afford housing the next year. They should know what rates will be for their entire collegiate tenure, not just the next semester. Most importantly, students should want to live on campus because they like the residential experience—not because they feel trapped by red tape and unclear policies.
CWRU residents have the right to know where their money is going, and we hope that providing these resources and hosting the open forum will be the first step in creating a more open dialogue about our housing environment.
Victoria Robinson, President of RHA
Andrew Dupuis, VP of Internal Development