By PATRICK CARROLL/Montana State News

New Montana State University Bozeman students living in the campus residence halls may be stunned by something other than their tuition payments when they receive their first bill from the university. The costs of living and dining on campus are among the highest for public universities in the state.

According to Montana State University Bozeman’s official website, students living in a double room in the university’s residence halls during the fall 2012 semester and the spring 2013 semester paid an average of $4,035 for unlimited meals and a room per semester. Students who lived in the residence halls both semesters paid an average of $8,070. The cost was more for residents who lived in a single room, but prices varied based on lifestyle and living arrangements.

At the University of Montana, residents paid an average of $7,500 for room and board for fall 2012 semester and spring 2013 semester, according to the University of Montana’s official website. Students at Montana State University Billings will be able to eat 19 meals per week and live in a double room for an average of $6,830 for fall semester 2013 and spring semester 2014, according to the university’s official website.  

“These rates have to be approved by the Board of Regents,” said a resident advisor from Montana State University Bozeman. “I’m pretty sure the rates change every two or three years.”

Residence Life did not immediately comment when asked about room and board rates at Montana State University Bozeman.

All freshmen are required to live on campus for their first year at Montana State University Bozeman unless they have family in the area. The majority of the students in the residence halls are freshmen. Only 30 percent to 35 percent of older students returned to the residence halls this year, said the RA, and most were freshmen returning as sophomores.

Nevertheless, finding enough room for housing an influx of students has been a growing issue on campus over the past few years. The university has been accepting more people than it is able to house, forcing Residence Life to have to find room for students any way it can. Last semester, Caleb Blokzyl, a current freshman resident at Montana State University Bozeman, was placed in what used to be an office with two other freshmen in the Quads. He had to walk up two flights of stairs just to use the restroom every day.

“When I applied to go to MSU, they told me I would have a room. When I got here, I found that wasn’t true,” Blokzyl said. “I would have preferred they told me I didn’t have a room so I could have applied somewhere else. That would have been better than having to live in what was basically a closet.”

About six weeks into the fall semester, he was placed in a room in Johnstone Center. His two roommates were placed shortly after, Blokzyl said.

According to the RA, MSU is currently building another residence hall called North Hedges Suite 3 which is scheduled to open for fall semester 2013. There are also plans to renovate Quad F, which currently is only used for classes, and have it ready by fall semester 2013 as well.

“I don’t think they’re doing enough though,” the RA said. “North Hedges Suite 3 will be able to house 70 residents.” The RA also said, “We’re projected to have a greater number of students next year than we had this year. We simply need more room for housing.”

According to MSU’s official website, each of the Quads houses a maximum of 25 students.

Room and board rates on campus do not compare well with the price of off-campus housing, which contributes to the students’ desire to leave the residence halls. Steven Burge, a junior at MSU, lives in an apartment off campus with three roommates. He said his apartment contains four bedrooms and two bathrooms, and he and his roommates each pay $312.50 per month. Burge said their total expenses without food for each month amount to $1,250.

The cost of Burges’s apartment compares favorably with on-campus living even at Montana’s less expensive universities. According to Montana State University Billings’ official website, living in a double room costs $493.75 per month and living in a single room costs $593.75 per month.

Current freshmen resident Ryan Pinardi said he has an older brother who lives in an apartment off campus. “He pays about $600 a month for rent, utilities, Internet and food. If you compare that to what residents pay on campus, it’s quite a bit less,” he said. “I actually sat down with my brother and compared what I was paying on campus to what he was paying off campus and found it was significantly cheaper.”

When asked what his housing plans were for next year, Pinardi said, “I’m going to move off campus and get my own apartment.”

– Edited by Nathan Voeller

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