Are students at the dorms willing to pay higher rent for the comfort and well-being of future residents?
Well, regardless of their feelings, that is just what they are doing. For the past few years, the dorm rent has been steadily increasing in order to fund a planned construction project.
This year, students are paying a total cost each semester of about 9.3 percent more than last year in order to help pay for the construction of a new dorm building in 2008.
This new building is planned to help alleviate overcrowding in the dorms by providing an additional 400 bed spaces for incoming renters.
Rent now for a two-bedroom with a kitchen is set at $543 per month, plus electricity, water and in some cases gas. There is an initial payment due of $275, which covers a portion of the housing payment, the security deposit and a $50 administrative processing fee.
Students who choose to live without a kitchen pay $429 per month plus utilities, but are required to purchase a CSUN meal plan. Those plans range from $1275 to $1475.
The total semester costs during the 2001-02 school year were $3,812 for a double unit with a kitchen, and $3,031 for a double unit without a kitchen. Each year since then, the costs have increased about 10 percent.
“It can be frustrating for students to see those rent increases,” said Claire Davis, associate director of administrative services. However, she said she believes the rent increases are proportionate to other schools and the surrounding area as well.
While the cost of renting apartments in the Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley areas has gone up significantly in recent years, neighboring apartments are now less expensive than the dorms.
The Superior, an apartment complex across the street from the dorms at 9710 Zelzah, rents out two-bedroom, one-bathroom units with private garage parking for two cars at $1,495 plus utilities. The Zelzah Court Apartments at 9810 Zelzah have two-bedroom, two-bathroom units, also with private garage parking, available for $1,575 plus utilities. If the rent was divided by four people like most dorm units are, each person would pay $373.75 per month for The Superior, and 393.75 per month for the Zelzah Court Apartments.?
To park at the dorms, one must purchase a parking permit for $252.
Dorm fees at other CSU schools vary. According to the housing office at Cal State Los Angeles, rent is about $413 per month, and the rooms are very similar to those at CSUN: two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, living room, and full furnishing.
Cal State Long Beach, however, charges between $6,597 and $6,885 per year for a double occupancy room, and $7,047- $7,335 for a single.
Davis said that students need to look past the monthly rent and observe the “bottom line” as a whole. In particular she was referring to the payment schedule, pointing out that no rent payment is required for the month of January.
According to Davis, it’s more difficult to collect rent from students during a vacation month when many of them are not even staying at the dorms. Therefore, since the January rent is broken up among the other nine months, a student is paying the equivalent of $488 plus utilities for a double unit with a kitchen and $385 plus utilities and a meal plan for a double unit without a kitchen.
These figures are based on the total semester fees, which are currently set at $5,155 and $4,129 for the kitchen and no kitchen room options, and the assumption that the student would be living there for the entire nine months. If that student moved in after January then there wouldn’t really be any benefit.???
The upcoming construction project isn’t the only thing that costs money.
“The increases (in rent) are specifically designed to cover the cost of construction and maintenance,” said Scott Tsunoda, financial operations analyst for the dorms. He also added that money is set aside as a contingent in the event of a natural disaster, such as the 1994 6.8 magnitude earthquake, which caused severe damage to the dorms.
The maintenance costs, which include repainting the rooms every five years, and frequent carpet shampooing or replacement as needed, are only a portion of the total cost of maintaining the dorms.
According to Davis, the dorm fees also pay for the mail room, satellite student union, administration, a portion of the salaries for the police on campus, and the security personnel. While Tsunoda handles the majority of financial responsibilities on campus, there are some things that are out of his hands. He does not post charges to student accounts, and he does not determine the dorm fees.
Rent changes are first proposed by Tim Trevan, director of Student Housing and Conference Services, along with the vice president of student affairs. Then they are considered by a fee advisory committee, and if passed by the committee they are then sent to the CSUN budget office for approval.
While Tsunoda admitted that there is room for improvements, he made it clear that “we always have the students’ needs at the forefront.”
Doug Henderson, 20, has been living in the dorms for three years and says his experience so far has been positive.
While playing a solo game of basketball on the court on the east side of building 9, Henderson said that “so far, everything seems to be all right.”
“Every now and then the maintenance could be a little faster,” he said, adding that some things, such as the Internet connection, have become less reliable over the years.
Bianca Zurita, junior CTVA major, has the same opinion about the dorms. This is her first year living in student housing, and she said that maintenance comes right away and everything seems to be just fine.
“I think it’s great,” Zurita said.
Of course, the money doesn’t always trickle back down to the students through security, repairs and events. Last year the front office was remodeled to give it a modernized, professional appearance.
The front office’s image was revamped with contemporary cubicle walls, new chairs and matching desks.
“It was a lot less attractive and needed an upgrade,” Tsunoda said. Davis said the improvements to the front office are about where it all ended. If you pass through the front office and into the rear corridor connecting the administrative offices, there is little to appreciate among the gray filing cabinets, old wooden desks and dull beige paint on the walls.
When considering living at the dorms, all things must be taken into account. Currently there is a wait list of about 130 people, parking can be difficult at times, and there are more strict rules of conduct associated with on-campus housing. However, while neighboring apartments are charging less, CSUN remains near the median cost of CSU dorms despite the yearly increases. ???
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