Housing Rate Changes - Frequently Asked Questions

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Why do housing rates change?

Prior to this year, Housing & Residence Life (H&RL) developed rates by estimating its operating costs for the upcoming year by looking at expenses like utilities, maintenance supplies and staff wages and/or benefits. H&RL does not have control over these expenses, which typically cost more every year. Beginning with the Academic Year 2019-2020 rate development process, Housing & Residence Life changed its rate development model to one that assists with ensuring that on-campus living remains in-line with the many options available to UW Tacoma students. For AY19-20 and beyond we will be using an Adjusted Market Rate model, which means that changes in housing rates are driven by:
  1. Changes in the Tacoma rental market as reflected by comparable apartment communities
  2. Changes in the costs of provided services not included in market rentals.

You can learn more about why UW Tacoma is using the Adjusted Market Model by reading the section below titled “How does UW Tacoma decide what the proposed rates well be?”

How does UW Tacoma decide what the proposed rates will be?

The first step in proposing the 2019-20 rates was to look at the full costs of operating Housing and Residence Life.  True costs include the direct expenses of operating the residential life program, saving thoughtfully to care for the building itself over time and the overhead costs to the university.  The increases to Court 17 rates would be too high if UW Tacoma approached rate development in this way.  

The next step was to look at the monthly rents charged by comparable market apartments.  H&RL utilized general Tacoma market analysis and data on comparable properties to Court 17 provided by a third party property management company to identify apartments that are sized similar to Court 17 units and that are in buildings like Court 17 (e.g. construction type, amenities, similar number of units and floors, etc.). Using this data, H&RL was able to determine the average cost per square foot to rent an apartment in one of these buildings today, and to project what that cost will be through June of 2020. H&RL then adjusted the market rates to reflect additional services that Court 17 provides that other apartment buildings do not.  For example, Court 17 rates include utilities, internet and 24-7 access to hall staff and Campus Safety.  The result of our market research was an adjusted market rate.

On review of the adjusted market rates, the H&RL team noticed something concerning:  students living in lower-occupancy units (private bedroom spaces) would have a much higher rate increase in 2019-20 than students in higher-occupancy units (shared bedroom spaces).  In some cases, students in lower-occupancy units would be paying an increase between 28.08%-35.32%)  (Lower occupancy units include studios and one-bedroom apartments that have only resident, or two-bedroom units that have only two residents.  Higher occupancy units include students and one-bedroom apartments that house two people, or two-bedroom apartments with four residents.)  In consultation with the Student Budget Committee, and the Vice Chancellors for Finance and Administration and for Student and Enrollment Services, H&RL determined that causing a significant increase to even a small group of students was not consistent with UW Tacoma’s values or goals.

The current rate proposal is based upon the adjusted market rates described above but caps the percentage increase for any specific unit type at 15%.  H&RL called this process community balancing:  because there are many more residents living in higher-occupancy units, by charging those residents a nominally higher amount, we can phase-in the cost increase for the students living in lower-occupancy units.  The lower-occupancy units are still paying more, which is entirely appropriate, but community balancing means they will not be the full increase of 28.08%-35.32%.  On average, students  in the higher-occupancy units will pay an additional $16 per month to offset the increase for students in the lower-occupancy units.

Who makes the decision about how much it will cost to live in Court 17?

Mentha Hynes-Wilson, the Vice Chancellor for Student and Enrollment Services, proposes housing rates to the UW Board of Regents during Winter Quarter.  The Board makes the final determination of what housing rates will be, typically during their March meeting. 

Leading up to the Board of Regents meeting, the UW Tacoma H&RL team works with Tye Minckler, the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration (F&A), and Mentha Hynes-Wilson) and the H&RL Student Budget Committee to develop proposed housing rates.  The Student Budget Committee (SBC) is an advisory group that includes representatives from the Residence Hall Association (RHA), Associated Students of UW Tacoma (ASUWT), and at least one at-large student representative.  The SBC devotes time to learn about budgeting, understand trends in Court 17 revenues and expenses and to review and discuss comparable market properties and how the local market rates relate to campus housing rates. The SBC provides advice to HRL and campus leadership to shape the final proposal to the Board of Regents.

H&RL is grateful to this year’s Student Budget Committee for their hard work during the past four months.  They’ve devoted time to learn about budgeting, understand Court 17 expenses and revenues, to review and discuss the assumptions that will shape rates for the following year, and to make provide advice to H&RL and campus leadership.  This year’s Student Budget Committee included:

Kimberly Contreras
Leonard Da
Noah Kehm
Arthur Lovett
Naga Palepu
Robert Webster, Jr.

Who pays for Housing & Residence Life?

The costs of operating H&RL are distributed among the students who use the program’s services; they are not paid for by students who don’t benefit directly. Currently, Court 17 serves roughly 300 residents each academic year.  Because not all UW Tacoma students benefit from the Housing & Residence Life program, the costs of the program are paid for by residential students through their housing occupancy charges and fees.

On-campus residents also benefit from services and supports that are not currently paid through their housing charges.  For example, residential students benefit from services provided by Campus Safety, Student Fiscal Services, IT and other offices in ways that non-residential students do not.  Costs like these are typically called “overhead” and on most campuses they are included in housing expenses as a percentage of the overall H&RL budget.   

Does Financial Aid pay for living on-campus?

The short answer is that many students will find that their Financial Aid award will adjust to help cover the cost of living on-campus.  Whether and how much your award will change depends on your personal circumstances, as described in the next paragraph.

Financial Aid applies rules from the federal government to determine a students’ financial need.  Financial Aid estimates the educational cost of attending college using a formula that includes tuition, fees, and estimated expenses (e.g. books, transportation, housing, food).  Financial Aid compares the estimated costs of attending UW Tacoma with the amount of money the federal and state governments estimate a student can contribute to their education based upon information provided in their FAFSA and/or WAFSA.   Because living-on campus may cost more than living at home, the gap between a students’ estimated educational costs and their estimated ability to pay will be greater than living at home.  Financial Aid will use available resources to try to fill that gap; those resources may include UW scholarships and grants, state funds and loans.  Our Financial Aid team works to minimize the amount of loans a student takes out;  in some situations they are the only resources available.  Financial Aid counselors are available to meet with you and review your award if you are unsure of what types of aid you will need to cover your housing costs

It is essential that you tell UW Tacoma’s Financial Aid Office where you plan to live in 2019-20 so your financial aid package is as accurate as possibleIf you plan to live-on campus, but did NOT note this on your FAFSA, contact UW Tacoma Financial Aid immediately.

What steps does UW Tacoma take to make living Court 17 more affordable for students?

UW Tacoma has owned and operated Court 17 for two and a half years.  The H&RL team has learned things each year and has made changes with each budget cycle to increasing the quality of the residential experience with limited additional investment.  For example, by changing lighting fixtures in the building to be more sustainable and to reduce our utilities expenses, we hope to use these savings to purchase additional lower usage fixtures.

What will it cost to live in Court 17 in 2019-20?

The chart below lists the proposed 2019-20 housing fees for Court 17 residents.  They are subject to approval by the Board of Regents.

How can I get involved with the rate development process for 2020-2021?

Housing & Residence Life will work with the Residence Hall Association (RHA) and ASUWT to identify students to serve on the next Student Budget Committee.  This process will kick-off in October 2020.

I have questions/concerns about the 2019-20 rates.  Who can I talk with?

Housing & Residence Life staff will be in the lobby of Court 17 during the following times to answer your questions and hear feedback. 

  • Tuesday, March 5th 10-11am
  • Wednesday, March 6th 3:30-4:30pm
  • Thursday, March 7th 12:30-1:30pm

You can also write to court17@uw.edu to share questions and feedback.