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On-Campus Rents Set to Increase As Dorms Continue to Run Deficit

By Kelley Rivoire
NEWS EDITOR

Graduate dormitory rents are going up again.

Because of skyrocketing energy prices, MIT says it will hike the rents by five percent next year. The change comes on the heels of last year’s 6.5 percent increase.

Graduate students are also getting a raise in their stipend paychecks, but only by 3.5 percent. See “Grad Student Stipends to Increase 3.5 Percent Next Year,” page 15.

The Housing Office says it will lose more than $600,000 this year because rents are not enough to cover the costs of running and heating the dormitories. Raising the rent won’t fix that problem — Larry G. Benedict, the dean for student life, says that Housing will lose even more money next year.

Rents would have to go up by 15 percent in order to cover Housing’s deficit next year, but that kind of increase would be unconscionable, says Isaac M. Colbert, the dean for graduate students. He wants MIT to ask alumni — especially alumni who only went to MIT for graduate school — to donate to MIT in order to close the dormitories’ deficit.

Graduate student representatives say MIT’s dormitory prices are already more than comparable Cambridge apartments.

“People need to wake up and start doing research,” said Daniel J. Abadi G, who works on a Graduate Student Council group concerned about rents. “You can get more for similar or even slightly less off campus.”

The group surveyed graduate students last month, and found that 82 percent of single graduate students who moved out of dormitories ended up preferring their new apartments.

So why do so many graduate students still enter the housing lottery, and why do the most expensive graduate residences still have waiting lists? Benedict — the ultimate head of the dormitories — says it’s because MIT graduate residences offer services that are not available in private apartments.

MIT’s rents include resources like a dean on call, faculty housemasters, night watch, and social programming, not to mention limited cable television, on-campus phone service, Internet access, hot water, and electricity, Benedict said.

Factoring all that in, MIT dormitories are more than 20 percent cheaper than comparable apartments, Benedict said.

To make dormitories appear more economical, MIT will start separating costs for “rent” and “amenities” — both still mandatory — on student bills, he said.

If expensive dormitories like Sidney-Pacific “weren’t desirable, they wouldn’t have waiting lists,” Benedict said, while the less expensive Ashdown House has struggled to fill its beds, because many graduate students find doubles undesirable.

Robert Wang G, another GSC rent-group member, says graduate students lack the information to make informed choices. The group’s survey found that only 27 percent of respondents looked at apartment listings before entering MIT’s lottery. With a better knowledge of the market, Wang said, demand for on-campus housing would drop. “Supply and demand is a bad argument to make when there’s asymmetric information,” he said.

Complete survey results can be found online at http://s-p.mit.edu/CGDR/, and the group can be reached at cgdr@csail.mit.edu.