Committee hears recommendations on room and board, long-range capital plan

HERSHEY, Pa. — The Penn State Board of Trustees’ Committee on Finance, Business, and Capital Planning reviewed information today (Feb. 25) on room and board rates for the upcoming academic year as well as a proposed multi-year capital assessment to support long-range building projects.

The committee recommended approval of both proposals by the full board, which will consider them at its meeting Friday (Feb. 26).

If approved, the typical room and board rate — a standard double room with the most common meal plan — will be $5,230 a semester, a 3.05 percent increase over 2015-16. The increases will cover the rising costs of food, payroll and operational expenses, said Gail Hurley, associate vice president for Auxiliary and Business Services.

Food costs are predicted to increase 1.9 percent in 2016-17, which is less than the expected Consumer Price Index. Initiatives such as negotiating directly with vendors and consolidated purchasing for all food service venues are helping to keep costs down. Payroll expenses are expected to increase, due to inflationary pay increases for technical service employees and staff.

Housing and Food Services (H&FS) also is requesting approval for a multi-year capital assessment, which will provide the additional financial support required each year to fund the Housing and Food Services Capital Plan for new construction and facility renewal projects University-wide.

“The H&FS Capital Plan responds to three driving forces: The need for renovations, the need to expand capacity, and the need to support the University’s strategic initiative in the Philadelphia area,” Hurley said. “Faced with issues of an aging inventory of buildings, increased student expectations, and a need for a strategic investment at Abington and Brandywine campuses, the Capital Plan and the assessment address the most critical facilities needs and priorities, while not overburdening students and their families with spiking rate increases.”

Major projects include renovating and upgrading Findlay Dining Commons and all student residence halls in East and Pollock complexes at University Park. These complexes house more than 6,000 students and were constructed in the 1960s.

The proposed multi-year capital assessment, which the full board will consider, includes capital support each year, ranging from an average $56 per semester increase in 2016-17 to a $78 per semester increase in 2022-23. The capital assessment is included in the proposed room and board rates.

“In order to ensure implementation of the H&FS Capital Plan, allow for the renovation and construction work to be completed without interruptions, and avoid cost increases due to delays, an up-front multi-year approval of the capital assessment is required,” Hurley said.

Money paid by students and guests for food and lodging are the only funds available to pay all Housing and Food Services operating expenses, building loans, and interest payments as well as costs for maintenance and building renewal projects. No state or tuition dollars are used for construction, maintenance of facilities, or the operations of the housing and dining program at Penn State.