Board of Governors delays decision on housing fee increases

The Board of Governors met to have the final discussion on the proposed residence fee increases, but held off on passing them.

On Thursday, February 12, the Board heard presentations and provided final statements on the increases, but refrained from voting on them as they wait for Student Housing and Hospitality Services (SHHS) to finish reviewing their accounting procedures.

The motion to pass housing fee increases -- a 20 per cent increase in 8-month residence rates followed by two years of three per cent increases, a 2.5 per cent increase for year-round housing followed by a 3.3 per cent increase for each of the three years, and a 2.5 per cent increase in meal plan costs on the Vancouver campus -- comes two months after the Board approved a 10 per cent increase to international tuition in December.

Many students vocally opposed the increases, arguing that they would make the cost of living on campus even more unaffordable for students from poor and middle-class backgrounds, ever since they were first proposed by the university in October.

AMS VP Academic Anne Kessler and President of the Residence Hall Associate Kaitlyn Melton gave a presentation in which they argued how the parallels that the university had drawn between Vancouver market rates and housing fees at other Canadian universities were not comparable to UBC.

Kessler also said that while the increased funding that the university had said would go towards mental health and counselling services is necessary, it should not come from raising residence fees.

“We fully agree that there’s a dire need for student mental health services on this campus, but some students should not be paying for the needs of all,” said Kessler.

VP Students Louise Cowin said that although they listened to student concerns about the fee increases, a growing demand for student housing and on-campus services means that more money needs to come from SHHS.

“I would actually say that the fees that we are proposing are at cost recovery, in so much as this is the cost of providing the residence experience to students,” said Cowin. “Students living in residence, particularly in first year, are buying much more than just the bed or the bed and the bathroom.”

Greg Peet, chair of the Finance and Property Committee, said that while it was difficult to compare market rates between apartments in the city and student housing, they felt that the proposed increases were justified when they considered the increased services that they would be funding.

“While we understand that students would prefer no increases, given the choice of actually having money, we’re pleased of having it go to these purposes,” said Peet.

Peet also recommended that SHHS revise their accounting procedures and look for additional ways to fund mental health services on campus for future years.

The Board is expected to vote on the increases in April.