The University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln defied the rule that prices always must rise.
In reports Friday to the NU Board of Regents, UNO announced that room and board rates there would stay the same in the coming fall. At UNL, they will drop by 2.2%.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture will raise their room and board rates by 3%.
UNO’s and UNL’s decision reflects the challenge colleges face to recruit and retain students during the coronavirus pandemic.
Although many in-person classes are being held, colleges rely more than ever on remote classes delivered to students’ home computers to reduce the risk of contracting the virus. And that diminishes the number of dormitory rooms required and, schools fear, reduces the appeal of college in general.
The NU system last year also chose to offer free tuition to low- and middle-income Nebraska residents through a program called “Nebraska Promise.” The regents also froze tuition rates for the next two years.
The regents previously had given the colleges the right to raise room and board in 2021-22 by 3% at the most but left the decision to each campus.
“UNO is committed to keeping our rates as low as possible,” Trent Frederickson, assistant dean of students at UNO, said in an email. Many residence hall beds have been taken “off-line,” Frederickson said, to house students being quarantined or isolated for the disease.
At UNL, the housing department “worked to lower rates as another step toward prioritizing access and affordability for students and families,” spokeswoman Leslie Reed said. The room occupancy rate at UNL is just below 75%, Reed said, a 10% decline from last year at this time.
UNK and the Nebraska College of Agriculture in Curtis chose to use the 3% increase allowed by the regents. Jon Watts, UNK’s vice chancellor of business and finance, said dormitory occupancy is down about 185 students from a typical year of 85% occupancy to about 72%. He attributed this to students staying off campus and taking classes online because of COVID-19.
Watts said UNK cut $1.1 million from the UNK housing operations’ budget for this year and said he is “dealing with a challenging situation.” Nevertheless, he said, he doesn’t think it’s a trend and thinks the numbers will look better after the pandemic is over.
UNK will charge $10,146 to $10,498 a year in 2021-22, depending on the meal plan.
UNK’s rates still will be lower than UNL’s, but UNL cut its 2021-22 room and board from $12,185 to $11,918.
UNO for the most part has no meal plan, so the comparison with the others is difficult. The dormitory prices vary by residence hall. The annual rate at Maverick Village, for instance, is $7,550.
At the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis, a double-occupancy room in East or West Halls plus an 18-meal-per-week plan will cost $6,732.
In other news:
Regent Paul Kenney of Amherst automatically became chairman of the board because he had been vice chairman. The new vice chairman will be Regent Bob Phares of North Platte.
UNK and UNO faculty unions collectively bargained raises of 1.25% for each of the next two years.
The regents accepted a gift valued at $25 million from the Nebraska Philanthropic Trust for the UNO baseball and softball complex west of Baxter Arena. The baseball field will be named for Tal Anderson, a former UNO baseball player and major donor, and Connie Claussen, a UNO faculty member who started the women’s sports program at UNO in 1969.
Our best Omaha staff photos of February 2021