Graduate Housing Rent Increases by Over 6 PercentBy Kathy Lin
ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR
Graduate housing rent will increase overall by 6.5 percent in 2004 and rents for some residences have also been restructured to correlate with the desirability of each room.
“The increase last year was about 5 percent, and a little less than that the year before,” said Larry G. Benedict, Dean for Student Life. However, this year’s deficits led to an abnormally large system-wide increase for graduate rents, he said, adding that “we’re a small business and need to be self-sustaining.”
Next year, however, the rent increase should be relatively small because “most of the contributing factors have been accounted for with this year’s increase,” Benedict said.
“We would have liked for more of the increases to be spread out over a few years, but we didn’t see that carried through,” said Barun Singh G, co-chair of the Graduate Student Council Committee on Housing and Community Affairs.
Several reasons for rent increase
The reasons for the increased rents include the operating costs of the dormitories, lingering costs of the new graduate dormitory (the Warehouse), less revenue than expected from rents and summer housing, lower rents for Senior Segue students, revenue lost because of empty beds, a decrease in Pool C subsidies (money invested by the Institute to fund graduate student education), and reduced numbers of beds in Sidney-Pacific dormitory and Ashdown, Benedict said.
The Pool C subsidy for housing decreased by $750,000, Singh said.
Rents correlated with desirability
“The administration and the majority of grad students believe that ... rents [didn’t] correspond to the amenities” of the rooms, Singh said.
“We want to make sure that there’s fairness and equity,” Benedict said.
The GSC gathered input from graduate students and compiled the data to determine the relative desirability of each type of room in each dormitory. With this data, they created a proposal for price adjustments that was submitted to Benedict.
“Except in a couple of cases, we were able to restructure the rents the way the graduate students wanted,” Benedict said.
“[The new] rents correlate to relative room and dorm amenities,” said Christina E. Silcox G, co-chair of the Committee on Housing and Community Affairs, at a graduate housing “town hall” meeting Monday night.
As a result of the restructuring of rents, the changes in rents for rooms ranged from 0 to 23 percent, rather than a uniform 6.5 percent increase, as would have been the case in past years, Benedict said.
Eastgate and Westgate, the two family dormitories for graduate students, did not have relative rent restructuring. The prices for doubles in Ashdown House, doubles in Green Hall, and quads in Sidney-Pacific also remained fixed.
The restructuring changes probably will not affect student choices about living on or off campus, but they “will affect choices about where they’re comfortable living,” said Lori Lerman, one of the Warehouse housemasters.
Student opinions collected
To collect the opinions of students, “the GSC did a survey, which we supported,” Benedict said.
The GSC “examined different ways to restructure the rents without system-wide increases,” Singh said.
The committee created thirteen different “rent structures,” or lists of proposed rents for each type of room in each dormitory. The relative prices for each type of room varied in each rent structure, but the total revenue that would be produced for MIT by the rents remained the same.
Responses to these rent structures were then gathered through student responses to the graduate student life survey that was given at the end of October.
Respondents to the survey who indicated interest in living on campus were given three of the 13 structures at random, as well as descriptions of the amenities that accompany each dormitory. They were then asked to rank their three top choices, given the price structure and the amenities, Singh said.
These data were compiled by the housing committee. They analyzed the data to produce a rent structure that they believe most fairly reflected the demand for each type of room in each dorm, Singh said.
Increases concern students
“As far as system-wide increases go, we weren’t able to give as much input as we would have liked, and grad students aren’t very happy with it as a whole,” Singh said.
“Some of these rooms are as good as any room in Cambridge or Boston, and our rents are between 100 and 150 dollars less than in Boston or Cambridge, according to the survey,” Benedict said.
Students at the Monday night meeting complained that the buildings are “much nicer than they should be.” Although the students appreciate the amenities of the new dormitories, they are concerned about the costs associated with nicer facilities. The costs are more than students can afford, Singh said.
They also questioned why they have to pay for the empty beds, which are a planning mistake on the part of the administration rather than the responsibility of the graduate students.
“Our biggest concern is in Sidney-Pacific, where a lot of students will have to pay 100 dollars more [per month] next year,” Silcox said.
“If it’s costing a whole lot more for kids to live here than near other schools, then kids will go to other places,” Singh said. “Stipends need to be correlated with the cost of living. Either stipends need to be higher or subsidies need to be higher.”
The people who set the stipends aren’t the same people who set the rents, Silcox said. Departments have not yet determined stipend levels for next year.
The GSC advises that concerned students speak with faculty, who “have very loud voices,” Silcox said, and to e-mail administrators if students move off campus as a result of the price increases.
The cost for housing is directly set by Benedict. “We did our best to have as much input as we could, but the final decision” was Benedict’s, Silcox said.
Graduate housing prices for next year can be found at <http://web.mit.edu/gsc/www/Committees/HCA/rents.txt>.
Beckett W. Sterner contributed to the reporting of this story.