Housing still a good deal, UHH students say


By COLIN M. STEWART

Tribune-Herald staff writer

University of Hawaii at Hilo students who live on campus told the Tribune-Herald on Sunday that they would be willing to pay higher housing fees.

While the dorms are aging and could do with some much-needed renovations, they said, on-campus living provides a number of benefits that are worth the increases UH-Hilo has proposed.

The UH Board of Regents is scheduled to vote Thursday on UH-Hilo's proposal to increase on-campus housing rates 28 percent by 2016. It is the first such increase since 2007, according to school officials.

The plan would see rates at each of UH-Hilo's three on-campus facilities jump by 5 percent each year beginning in the fall of 2012 and running through the fall of 2016. School administrators say the increase is necessary, at least in part, to offset the costs of building the new University Village housing facility, which is expected to provide 300 new beds beginning in the fall of 2013. That facility's rates would also increase by 5 percent each year until 2016.

Junior Erin Miyashiro, who shares a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate at Hale Ikena, currently pays $1,945.67 a semester. She would see her housing costs go up to $2,043 per semester next year.

"It's not that bad," she said Sunday. "Because everything's included here. All the utilities are included, and it's very convenient to live on campus. You're close to everything."

Also important to her, she said, is safety. "It's a lot safer here, too, because of (campus) security."

Easy access to washers and dryers, study rooms, wireless Internet, a TV lounge, and even pool tables also makes on-campus living a good buy for the money she pays, Miyashiro said.

"I would say that they (students in on-campus housing) are still going to be getting a good deal," she said.

A sophomore male student who didn't want to give his name agreed with Miyashiro, but added that he would like to see some renovations to Hale Ikena.

"It's not a bad increase, but some of the living conditions aren't up to par," he said. "The bathrooms could use some work. The ventilation needs a little work, too."

Even so, he said he might be willing to shoulder the bump in housing costs, if he wasn't already planning on moving off campus with friends next year.

"One thing is, if you're on campus, you don't have to drive, so you'll be saving that gas money," he said.

Before finalizing its rate increase proposal, UH-Hilo surveyed in October a total of 872 students concerning their housing needs. Twenty-nine percent of the respondents said they lived on campus, while 28 percent said they rented off campus. Meanwhile, about one-fifth of students said they lived with their family, and just under one-fifth said they lived off campus with family or friends.

More than 70 percent of the respondents said they were "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with UH-Hilo housing.

Lack of privacy, expense and a lack of cooking and dining options were named as the main reasons why those surveyed chose not to live on campus.

The top five reasons respondents said they chose to live on campus were being close to classes, being close to other educational resources, being close to on-campus activities, the convenience associated with having maintenance/trash and other concerns taken care of, and the expectations of family and friends for them to live on campus.

When it came to price sensitivity, the majority of students surveyed said the optimal price point for on-campus housing was about $450 a month, or roughly $2,250 per semester.

Current UH-Hilo on-campus housing rates range from $1,388.29 per semester for a double-occupancy room in a traditional residence hall to $4,283.38 per semester for a single-occupancy, one-bedroom apartment unit. Those rates would increase to $1,458 and $4,498, respectively, in the fall of 2012. They would increase 5 percent each year, eventually reaching $1,772 and $5,467, respectively, by fall 2016.

Meanwhile, University Village rates would range from $3,250 for single occupancy in a four-person suite and $3,500 single occupancy in a two-person suite, upon their opening in fall 2013.

They, too, would increase by 5 percent each year, to $3,762 and $4,052, respectively, by fall 2016.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.