Campus News

University faces high costs for University Inn renovation and relocation, early estimates top $550,000

By Michelle Adams, Editor in Chief

University Inn relocation hotels | The Buzz

The halls of the University Inn are quiet with residents relocated to one of five hotels throughout Winchester. (Photo by Ghadah Alotaibi)

The University is not concerned about the costs associated with the relocation of students and the renovation of the University Inn, as financial precautions had already been in place.

“We set aside money in our budget each year…for both the short-term and the long-term repairs and maintenance and renovation of all of our buildings,” Vice President for Administration and Finance, Bob Keasler, said. “Each year, we set a project that we’re going to use that money for…and that’s usually in the summer.”

“What the UI has done is a renovation project that we would normally do in the summer, we’re going to do now,” he said.

Keasler also noted that while funds were already set aside for this purpose, the University may have to spend more than anticipated because of the time frame, but various gifts have been donated by trustees and other community members to aid the effort.

“To be perfectly honest, because we’re going to do it over a shorter time period, and not one that we’ve planned in advance, it’s probably going to cost us a little more to renovate the UI in the next couple of months than it would have this summer,” he said. But “we want to do everything we can to make sure students, when the semester is over, can move their stuff back into the UI.”

Though Keasler does not know “whether that’s doable yet or not,” Director of Media Relations, Emily Burner, said that “it’s safe to say that students don’t need to take their items home with them over winter break, they can keep them here, it’s just a matter of where they’re going to be and we just don’t know that yet.”

While Keasler said renovations to UI is covered by University funds, some students are concerned that tuition may rise in response to not only the costly renovations, but also the extensive payments and accommodations provided to the approximately 200 students who have been relocated.

Though the University will not release exact amounts, these costs include direct payments to students, including a $500 cash payment to each former resident from the University, adding up to about $100,000; and hundreds of “goodie bags,” including $10 in gift cards, among other “goodies,” that can amount to approximately $4,000.

Additionally, the University has bought two Nissan passenger vans that are valued at up to $30,000 each, and must pay for the employment of drivers for these shuttles at $10 per hour, 18 hours per day, amounting to approximately $360 per day of operation, and for the addition of several new security officers to monitor the area around the hotels overnight.

The University is also renting approximately 100 hotel rooms where students will be residing for about three months, though hotel managers declined to comment on exact prices. Additionally, students are contributing to laundry fees when not provided by the hotel; students at the Holiday Inn have reported paying $1.50 each week to a private cleaner for laundry.

These payments and accommodations amount to over $550,000, in addition to hotel room fees, but some students have said that they are not willing to pay extra in tuition and fees to compensate.

“I’d be mad [if tuition increased] especially since I was a student directly affected,” Brydie Kelly, 18, a music production and recording technology major, said.

Keasler, however, says this is not a concern.

“We always operate off of a five-year financial plan, and that includes what our tuition and fees are going to be for the next five years,” he said. “The University comes to the Board of Trustees with a recommendation, and we discuss it.”

The cost of tuition “hasn’t changed, and it won’t change because of this,” Keasler said. “We look at all of that separately, operationally.”

According to Keasler, the University is saving money by storing student belongings in the property that was once Bob Evans throughout the fall semester, and the many students choosing to opt out of their meal plans and housing contracts will not affect the University budget, either.

“I understand [that there are] some students that want to do that, but all the research you look at says that the more time students spend on campus, the more likely they are to succeed,” he said. “That worries me more than the other part of that.” He noted that the meal plans are not a “money-maker” for the University; it’s a “pretty break-even thing.”

“In my circle, more people are leaving [their housing contracts] than staying,” Jared Haley, 19, a music production and recording technology major, said, though he does not see it harming his academics.

“My ‘SU,’ experience is everything on campus,” he said, “what I do in classes, ensembles, and the work I produce because of it. My living arrangements do not affect that experience.”

“This whole move has taken a huge toll on my schoolwork and study time,” Kelly said. “While I do believe SU is doing their best, it still messed with my schoolwork.”

“Spending the money and all that, we make plans for that. That doesn’t bother me or [President] Tracy or the Board or anyone here,” said Keasler. “The disruption this has caused to students, that bothers us a lot. Not the spending of the money.”

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