MU reduces room and board to combat student debt

3 weeks 19 hours 5 minutes ago Friday, December 28 2018 Dec 28, 2018 Friday, December 28, 2018 9:13:00 PM CST December 28, 2018 in News
By: Sania White, KOMU 8 Reporter
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COLUMBIA - The University of Missouri will cut room and board costs for the upcoming school year in efforts to deal with the national student debt problem.

"How do we ease the financial burden of students and their families? At the same time, we don't want to decrease in any way the academic support that you have here on campus," MU Spokesman Christian Basi said.

An article from Forbes names student loan debt "the second highest consumer debt category - behind only mortgage debt - and higher than both credit cards and auto loans." 

Make Lemonade, a personal finance website, said there are more than 44 million people with student loans who collectively owe $1.5 million in debt in the U.S. alone. 

According to Nov. 15-16 meeting documents from the UM System Board of Curators, the new rates will begin during the Summer Session 2019. The university predicts more than 83 percent of students who live and eat on campus will pay less next school year. 

The meeting documents also say:

"Students will have the option to live and dine on campus for less than $850/month — a total savings of nearly $150 per month compared to the lowest-priced option for the current academic year." 

Basi said this decision was more about helping students and less about increasing enrollment. However, the university has been using an "aggressive" recruiting strategy to make sure students come and stay at the university. These tactics were implemented amid a $60 million budget cut by the state this summer. 

The university hopes to minimize students' debt problems while maximizing its on-campus living by making it affordable, competitive and attractive to students.

For some students, the cost of living on campus is still outside of their price range, resulting in taking out student loans. 

"It was a necessity I had to do in order to really be here," MU student Lisette Perez said. 

Convenience is one reason why students decide to stay on-campus after their first year. 

"Money that would've went to an apartment and stuff like rent and the utilities, doesn't have to because it's all done here," MU student Breauna Roberson said. 

To avoid taking out large amounts of loans, some students work as desk attendants (DA) or residential advisors (RA) through the MizzouMade program.

"If I was not able to be an RA or DA, then that would probably have to be the reason why I move off campus," said Ethan Phillips, MizzouMade DA. 

In past years, being a DA meant having a free dining plan, and RAs received free dining and living. Phillips has been in the MizzouMade program for two years.

"Four semesters of rooms being paid which is close to almost $30 thousand just by itself, depending on what dorm you're staying in and what campus style room you are," Phillips said. 

DAs are responsible for jobs such as logging mail, answering calls, and answering students' questions and have to work 15 hours per week.

According to Phillips, RAs work about 18 hours a week and are:

"Their first means of communication to make sure they're okay and they're being able to function as students." 

As a former RA and current DA, Phillips said it gets difficult balancing his job, and school work.

"Everybody comes to you at different times of the night. 

To offset cuts in room and board, UM Board of Curator decided to combine some services in residential life to reduce costs. 

"Maintenance and custodial work was done separately in residential life versus the rest of the campus," said Basi. "We combined those areas with the operations division, so that meant for more efficient operations."

According to a manager from MU's Residential Life office, official prices and room and board plans will be released in January.  

 

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