On-campus residency cost has increased $900 since 2007
The average annual rate students pay for on-campus housing has increased by $900, or 21 percent, in the past five years, according to data provided by USC Housing.
From 2007 to the present, average annual rates have increased from $4,388 to $5,288. The average annual rate for lower-cost traditional housing — double rooms with at least one common bathroom on each floor — increased $690, or 20 percent, during that time.
Increasing on-campus housing rates is a trend across many universities that has affected students already paying steadily rising tuition. Many students cite high costs as their reason for moving off USC’s campus after their mandatory first year. Freshmen are required to live on campus because studies have shown it increases academic success and retention rates.
Gene Luna, associate vice president for student affairs and academic development, said the increasing costs outpace the 2 percent inflation rate primarily because Housing is increasing academic support for residents and paying for work on buildings. Another reason for the increase he cited was USC’s plan to replace the cheaper traditional-style residence halls with more popular suite-style residence halls.
The university currently has five traditional-style dormitories and eight suite-style residence halls. But USC’s $200 million long-term housing plan includes demolishing three of those traditional-style halls: Bates House, McBryde and the Roost.
Data have showed how the transition to suites has increased costs. In 2009, average housing rates increased 6 percent when the suite-style Honors Residence Hall opened. Honors currently charges $5,640 annually for its double rooms, compared to traditional-style residence halls, which charge $4,140.
This year, housing rates jumped 4.6 percent due in large part to Patterson Hall’s transition from a traditional to suite-style dormitory. When Patterson closed in spring 2010, it cost $4,320 a year for residents. When it reopened this fall, it began charging $5,640 a year.
But according to Luna, housing’s research shows students want to live in suites despite the extra costs.
“If we do good market research, and we listen to the Carolina students, we would eliminate all traditional-style housing because students don’t want that,” Luna said.
Luna estimated only 20 percent of on-campus housing is still traditional, compared to 65 percent 15 years ago. He said $250 million has been invested in that time on the transition to more suites and apartments.
“We built our first new housing on campus after I got here, which was South Quad,” Luna said. “It was clearly going to be the most expensive housing on campus, and I was very concerned that it might separate our students, and the reality of it is that it didn’t. The demographics there were similar to demographics across campus.”
USC’s housing rates are comparable to those of other SEC institutions. Auburn University’s cheapest annual housing rates increased from $3,380 to $4,090 in the past five years — like USC, an upswing of roughly 21 percent. According to Kim Trupp, Auburn’s housing director, the average rates at Auburn also jumped substantially due to the completion of new residence halls. All of Auburn’s housing options are now suite-style.
The cheapest traditional housing rates at Clemson, a non-SEC school, increased from $3,190 to $4,320, a 35 percent uptick, in the past five years. Doug Hallenbeck, Clemson’s executive director of housing, said the increase was due to normal inflation plus building expenses.
Luna said numerous universities are increasing rates to pay for updating or building new residence halls. He said campuses are aging because many buildings were constructed during the 1930s and 1940s due to federal stimulus and during the 1960s due to population increases. Luna said USC’s housing rates have consistently been in the lowest third or quarter among SEC universities, and complimented the university on keeping rates low.