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Rate hikes draw concern


Esmeralda Valdez, director of Auxiliary Services, explains the planned changes for the 2012-2013 school year. | Naheeda Sayeeduddin/The Daily Cougar

UH Residential Life and Housing and UH Dining Services presented their strategic vision plans for 2012, which include rate increases for some of the amenities available to students.

The first of two town hall meetings took place on Wednesday afternoon and opened with a presentation by Assistant Vice President of University Services, Emily Messa and Interim Director for Residential Life and Housing, Javier Hidalgo.

“It was important for us to have goals as we looked at where do we want to go with residential life and housing in the very near future,” Messa said.

With UH well on its way to Tier One status, Messa said, President Khator’s next goal is to make UH a primarily residential campus.

“The number one focus of our strategic plan for housing is to increase the number of students living on campus.”

To do that, UHRLH plans to launch a major overhaul of Moody Towers and the Quadrangle.

The renovation, estimated to cost around $5 million, will begin this summer and is expected to last 92 days.

“This renovation is for the most part aesthetics, covering some infrastructure issues. Some of those infrastructure issues will be the elevators,” Hidalgo said. “It’s not necessarily an issue that we have ignored, but it’s an issue that requires a significant (amount of) money.”

The Moody Tower renovation includes removing the old furniture and replacing it with new moveable furniture, while the Quadrangle room furniture will be refinished.

Additional room upgrades for both residential halls also include new paint, flooring and window treatments. The lounge areas and bathrooms for Moody and Quad will also be renovated.

The renovations will bring in around a 6 percent increase in the rates for living in the Moody and Quad residential halls.

“Part of that increase is to pay for that $5 million loan that will pay for those renovations,” Hidalgo said.

Hidalgo added that other residential facilities will increase their rental rates to cover future expenses, but not as high as the Moody and Quad rates.

UH Dining Services also presented their strategic vision for the 2011-2012 school year, which included rate increases in meal plans – a decision leaving some students on edge.

“We need to know how much of the increase is needed for basic expenses of what UH dining needs. We need to know how much is for Aramark’s profit, so that we can make informed decisions on how much it should be,” sociology junior and pre-med student Brendan Laws said.

According to Director of Auxiliary Services, Esmeralda Valdez, the rate increase was based on consumer price index projections for food.

“The three (residential meal) plans that are increasing are averaging an increase about 3.8 percent overall,” Valdez said. “That is basically to cover what we are projecting or anticipating that the consumer price index cost of the food will be based on that data.”

There will also be an increase in door pricing, which has not increased since 2009.

Although the main purpose of the town hall meeting was to give students clear and concise information on the proposals, sociology senior and student member of the Food Services Advisory Committee, Marianela Acuna-Arreaza, still felt left in the dark.

“What worries me is that UH Dining is not presenting the whole picture on how they are doing economically,” she said. “They are not presenting how much their revenues are and how much their profit is, and how it’s being distributed.”

Proposed meal plan options are posted online at www.uh.edu/af/fsac.htm.

The UH Residential Life and Housing presentation can be viewed at www.uh.edu/af/pressrelease/PR2011/RLHRateIncrease.pdf.

The second town hall meeting took place Thursday evening.

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