By KAYLEE TYEE
President Paino and the Board of Visitors have made a decision to standardize freshman room rates starting in the upcoming 2017-18 academic year. The room rate for all first-year residence halls will be $3,300 a semester. In 2015 UMW started the FSEM program, which was designed to help freshmen transition to the college life. However, the BOV is concerned that FSEMs were being chosen based off the dorm rather than the class.
Juliette Landphair, vice president of Student Affairs, said, “Standardizing the price [for room rates] … will make it more likely [that] FSEMs will influence [students] in their decision [making].”
Landphair gave three main reasons for the change. She expressed that standardizing the room rates will make it less confusing for students and their parents. The student can just pick a room instead of figuring out the different cost. Another reason for standardizing the room rates was because of socio-economic reasons. The idea is that if the student pays more money the student gets a better room like one with air conditioning or new appliances, which is not always the case.
According to Landphair, the university conducted a survey of students over the past few years. The top two highest rates of satisfaction for residence halls were Russell and Virginia. Neither hall has air conditioning, and Russell is located in a rather inconvenient location at the bottom of a hill.
Rebecca Messier, freshman English education major, lives in Mason this year. She said, “I ranked all the dorms on my computer by things I liked and also by FSEMs I wanted.”
Messier put a lot of research into the different halls. She wanted a dorm with air conditioning and did not want to be at the bottom of the hill. However, Messier admitted she may have picked an FSEM that matched up with the hall she wanted, rather than the FSEM she wanted.
Freshman Lauren Butler lives in Virginia Hall, and while she took her FSEM into consideration when deciding where to live on campus, it did not influence her decision as much as other factors.
“My mom lived in this hall [Virginia Hall] when she attended the university,” Butler said. The family sentiment along with Virginia Hall’s central location played a large role in choosing her dorm.
UMW has a policy that students must live on campus for two years, therefore furthering the tough decision when it comes to choosing housing.
UMW conducted another survey of students on why they moved off campus. Students said that costs were a factor and that the required meal plan status that comes with living on campus was also a deterrent.
“We want more students to live on campus after their sophomore year by choice,” Landphair said. She added that maybe further down the line they could be standardizing upperclassmen residential halls.
Additional decisions were made to add a change to the meal plan. Seniors who have 90 credits can now pick from the 90 or 75 block meal plan. Until now, that option was only listed for students living in the UMW apartments or Eagle Landing.
According to Landphair this new plan is “recognition of developmental changes.” Seniors should have more room for experience and choice. While for freshman, the dining hall is more important and convenient because they are still forming new relationships and getting to know campus better. This is also an incentive to keep them from moving off campus after their first two years.