How expensive is it to live on campus? For the past few years, the cost of housing at MIT has been steadily rising. In the 2007-2008 school year, the average costs for living in a single or double room in a dormitory was $2,921, which rose in the following years by eight, seven, four, and five percent, respectively. The average cost today is $3,652. Senior Associate Dean for Residential Life and Dining Henry J. Humphreys said that the main factors affecting rate hikes are the cost of operations, debt service of the buildings, and costs associated with upkeep, repairs, and renovations.
“We’re always doing improvements,” said Humphreys, “but the general principle is we try to keep rate increases as low as reasonably possible.”
To keep operating costs down, most buildings undergoing repairs are being made more energy-efficient. In New House, the air conditioning system was replaced this past summer to use less electricity. Campuswide, MIT is also installing energy-saving lights, motion sensors, and efficient heating systems in buildings as they are being renovated. These, along with the attention to using of high-quality replacement materials, are factors that might slightly increase costs every year, but could potentially decrease rate hikes in the long run.
“It’s a series of small things that all add up to making sure that the costs stay down,” said Humphreys. He added that the rate increases have remained constant in recent years. “The rate increases have stayed level for the last several years, and I anticipate — as the Institute becomes more energy efficient — that we will maintain that; I don’t see large jumps needing to come along at this point,” he said, adding that MIT manages its money well.
Other measures used to keep housing costs down include distributing the debt service among all the dormitories, so that there are not drastic differences between the costs of buildings. “In some schools … one building might cost $15,000 to live in and one might cost $8,000 to live in, and you create economic disparities amongst people,” said Humphreys. “Generally, when surveys are done of students — why they pick a building — it’s [mostly] not based upon cost, it’s based upon culture … and where their friends live,” he said.
MIT, unlike other schools, charges “room and board” separately, said Humphrey, because MIT has both dining and cook-for-yourself communities. Though dining halls do not directly affect the official cost of housing itself, students in dining dorms are required to enroll in dining plans. This requirement drives up the price of living in a dining dorm.
Besides dining, the differences between residence costs is based on the quality of the facilities and operating costs. MIT places its dorms into “three tiers,” according to Humphreys. Tier one consists of newer dorms with better facilities — and also higher costs of operation — like Maseeh Hall, McCormick Hall, Baker House, and Simmons Hall, while older dorms like East Campus, Bexley, and Random Hall fall into the third tier. The rest of the dorms are considered second tier.
One aspect of determining housing costs — a long process that includes everyone from the Division of Student Life to the MIT Corporation — is student representation on the Housing Strategy Group, which contains representatives from the UA and the GSC in addition to members of the administration.
“[The students] are very good about challenging and saying ‘why this, why that,’ and … they are very good about making sure that we give enough advanced notice to students,” said Humphreys The student representatives have input on aspects of renovations, costs, and summer housing. While the Housing Strategy Group makes recommendations, the Corporation ultimately approves the policy decisions .
MIT is always working to build its capital reserves that go towards housing, Humphreys said. Summer housing is one of the sources of income that offsets semester costs. Humphreys mentioned that MIT is trying to systematize the process that determines which buildings get renovated and how. Though costs might rise as dorms and other buildings are “maintained at the standard that they should be or brought up to the standard that they should be,” costs increases should remain constant in the years to come.