Many first-year students were assigned to and prepared to pay to live in Pei dorms at an approximate yearly cost of $7,000. But following the closure of Pei resulting from black mold infestation, some students slated for those rooms told the Catalyst they are now required to pay between $1,000 and $2,000 more for housing in hotels. Letter dorms cost about $8,000 per year, the same price Pei dorm students are paying to live off campus.
Student housing price increases are permitted under Chapter 3 of the New College Regulation Manual: “The President is hereby delegated authority to phase in the new classification room rates, based on market demand, with the goal of achieving full occupancy.”
The Regulation Manual does not mention the timing of any room rate changes. Some students assert that since pricing is fixed when student housing contracts are signed, the school must provide students ample notice of any billing changes. James Dunne, a first-year living at the Hilton Garden Inn, expressed his frustration with the increased pricing for a living situation he did not choose.
“I was supposed to be in Pei 2 and got a call on Aug. 17 that I was going to be living in a hotel, but was not told that my housing price would increase,” Dunne told the Catalyst. “I will be able to stay at the school but I am infuriated about the change. However, I’m going to speak with the housing office as soon as possible and get to the bottom of this.”
Another student living at a contracted hotel, first-year Lane Hagan, expressed worry about possibly having to withdraw from New College over the increase in prices.
“My original housing and meal [plan] bill was a bit over $4,000, but now it’s $6,555. We got an email to view our bill on Sept. 6 and it was raised; we didn’t get an email or a call explaining anything,” Hagan said. “Originally, they told us we would pay $500 more per semester to live in a hotel but if we couldn’t pay that or had a problem, they would have someone call us to figure it out. We never got the call about the $500 increase and no email or call telling us our housing and meal would go up $2000.”
Hagan further stated that the original prices were already a stretch and that until now, their finances were mostly covered by academic scholarships. They said they worry they may not be able to afford New College next year.
A third student, Mahalla Hynes, also a first-year living in an off-campus hotel, emphasized that the increased price is a financial hardship.“I heard about the change in housing from my friends, not from the school,” Hynes said. “They didn’t even tell me. I will be staying at the school but it will cause strong financial strain on my family.”
Ellie Caflisch, another first-year living in a hotel, explained that she is considering leaving New College altogether due to her frustration with the administration.
“My original housing plan was to be in a Pei double, and I wasn’t told about moving into the hotel until three days before move-in day,” Caflisch said. “They called me and told me about it with little to no remorse or empathy about the situation. I will be able to stay at New College financially, but with the negative changes I’ve already seen happening with the new administration, there’s a good chance I won’t be staying. I have attempted to call the housing department many, many times and they have never picked up the phone. When I try to speak to any other department about it, they transfer me to housing and then the phone rings until I finally hang up.”
When the Catalyst reached out to Housing, it became apparent that three of the four employees listed on the official New College website no longer work at the department. There is also no mention of these employees’ departures on the website. News of the change was learned only through email correspondence. If students call the departed administrators’ phone numbers, there is no answer and no recording advising who students can contact instead.
Almeda Jacks, who recently arrived from Clinton College, is listed in the New College directory as an “Administrative and Professional” staff member for Student Affairs, not the Financial Aid or Housing offices. However, Jacks responded to the Catalyst via email about the housing fees and stated that the housing department never actually increased prices.
“I am not sure what you are speaking about with prices going up during the semester,” Jacks stated. “Our original and current rates for hotels are $9720 for a single [which is a Dort & Goldstein rate] or if a double in the hotel it is $7,500. If you were assigned to a double in Pei and lost your assignment and put in a hotel in a double we actually reduced that payment to $7,000. If you have any of those students I would be happy to speak to them because we have not increased housing since they moved into the three hotels.”
In a follow-up in-person interview, Jacks maintained that no increase in housing prices occurred.
“When we first moved people in August, the rates had not changed. The only reason I could think that students think it has gone up is because they just get their bills. But it hasn’t gone up since August since we moved. It has always been the same price.”
Although financial bills are typically issued in July, this year they were sent to students in September. Jacks would not comment on the reason for the delay.
“When we first found out that we couldn’t use Pei 2 and 3, we immediately went to the hotels and within three days we had gotten hotels arranged. We even reduced housing by $500 because it was originally $7500 and now it is $7000,” Jacks concluded. Jack’s position conflicts with those of the students interviewed, who insist they are paying more for housing in the hotels than they would for the Pei dorms.
The housing dispute between the students and the administration began last month, just two days before move-in when students who had signed housing agreements to live in on-campus dorms before the end of the 2022-2023 school year received emails that they would instead be living in hotels off campus. Notwithstanding the binding legal nature of the housing agreements, students were incensed by what they saw as an apparent lack of transparency by the administration. That said, the administration would have had to negotiate and coordinate year-long agreements for hundreds of students at three hotels in just two days’ time.
While the administration contends that housing prices have not changed, the price increases are real enough to financially strapped students, who say they are unsure of their futures at New College.