The city of East Lansing and the MSU student community have seemingly always been at odds. A cloud (currently of the tear gas variety) has constantly covered MSU, disabling either side from seeing clearly enough to come to mutually beneficial decisions regarding the operation of the city.
[house]Although the recent “melee” has been the major issue in the news, the release of on-campus housing rates for 2005-2006 should be raising a few eyebrows. A five percent increase for living on campus, combined with the city’s insistence on forming a more solid permanent resident population by cutting back on rental housing, including plans to tear down Cedar Village, may leave many students paying more for fewer options.
For the 2005-2006 school year, a double room with 15 meals per week will cost $5,744, an additional $286 or a 5.25 percent rise from current rates. University apartment rates, which now cost $581 per month for one bedroom and $644 per month for two bedrooms, will be raised by the same percentage.
The increasing room and board rates partially reflect the costs of housing renovations. The university apartments have been newly remodeled and many apartments now have Ethernet access available. In addition, Snyder/Phillips Hall will be closing in May 2006 for massive repairs, including revamping the community bathrooms.
Angela Brown, director of University Housing, blames the rising costs of dorm living on inflation, insisting prices will continue to rise as time passes. “The rate of housing rose because of inflationary increases of other expenses, such as food, labor and insurance,” Brown said. “Each year, housing rates rise around three to six percent. The cost increases also relate to the costs of natural resources; as the prices of natural gas and coal go up, utility costs for the university rise, as does the price of housing.”
But getting off campus may not be much better. Student housing options in the city of East Lansing, such as apartments and rental houses, are not necessarily being renovated, but some are simply being eliminated. City officials have made it clear a larger permanent population is desired, but the nearly 45,000 students attending MSU each year do result in an incredible permanence of business and support of East Lansing’s economy.
Housing prices are also rising for the Student Housing Cooperative, an organization that owns 12 houses in East Lansing available for student rental. Any student can become a member of “co-op” house but should have a focus on group upkeep. According to Member Services Coordinator Evan Dayringer, spots for this type of living are still available, for both summer 2005 and the 2005-2006 academic year, but are filling up.
“The payment plans vary from house to house, but the cost is broken down into two parts: assessment, which are the overhead costs such as insurance, and house charges, which is anything that the house decides to spend money on, such as utilities, a meal plan, or Internet access,” Dayringer said. “A single room with a meal plan costs about $440 per month, and a double costs about $100 less than that. Summer contracts offer reduced rates.”
With dorm-defiant students being pushed farther and farther away from the center of MSU’s campus, many existing apartment complexes are using up-to-date facilities to draw Spartan interest, and of course, Spartan dollars. Chandler Crossings, a group of three apartment complexes on the northern end of Abbot Road, is approximately three miles from the MSU campus. The Village, The Club and The Landings are currently running an April promotion, hoping to rope in procrastinating students with rates of $530 per month for a two-bedroom apartment. This rate is over $100 cheaper than the cost of renting a university apartment, but is the additional distance from campus worth it?
The Landings associate Kendrick Thomas hopes so. “We include several unique features, such as free washer and dryer, fully furnished rooms and even a Frisbee golf course,” Kendrick said. “All occupants have access to all of our services at any of the apartment complexes. We want our residents to live the good life.”
Since the promotion began, apartment traffic has picked up for this luxury complex, which resembles a spa more than a college apartment building. Glistening outdoor pools dot the exterior and during those long winter months, tanning is free to all residents, Kendrick said.
“We also feature roommate matching, so if a student does not have a roommate at the time of signing the lease, we can match them up with someone who fits their personality,” Kendrick said.
Although rare, apartments close to campus do exist. Many students are drawn to newer layouts, features and furniture such as those at Chandler Crossings, but a daily three-mile walk or CATA trip is just too much of a hassle. Pre-law freshman Kristi Maynard is living in an apartment right off Grand River Avenue, a dream location for students desiring the independence of living off-campus and an escape from dorm life, while keeping a great location.
“The rate is roughly $500 dollars for rent and an additional $50 in utilities, but I chose the apartment for its nice location,” Maynard said. “In the dorms, the café food was pretty bad sometimes, with too much fried food. I also had a lot of problems with the room’s heating system. In the winter, we would have to have our windows open, even when it was snowing.”
Although apartments and houses near campus are appealing, other students still feel that the dorm setup cannot be beat. And despite the increase in housing, MSU retains the cheapest rates among the Big Ten schools, according to Brown. “The room and board rates at MSU are also the second lowest in the state of Michigan,” Brown said.
For some students, the increase in housing rates has no bearing on the choice to stay in the dorms. James Madison sophomore Sara Grammes, although formerly unaware of the higher housing rates, will return to Case Hall. “Living in the dorms is convenient because it is easier to get to all of my classes, especially my Madison ones,” Grammes said.
Telecommunications and information studies sophomore Mike Jones is gung-ho for dorm living, because he enjoys being able to leave his room a few minutes before class and not having to worry about driving or taking the bus. “Living off campus may look cheaper, but most apartments don’t include cable, Internet and electricity,” Jones said. “The [housing] increase would not have affected my decision to stay in the dorms. When you add all of the costs associated with attending college, $286 is just a drop in the bucket.”
An increase in dorm expenses is another reason for Spartans to get out there and search for a job in the shrinking employment market of the city. While the goal might be to come up with next month’s rent, costs of apartments may soon skyrocket beyond reasonable amounts. With East Lansing continuing to push the green and white out of its city limits, dorm life may become the only feasible option.

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