Student Senator Provides Information on Laundry Price Increases

Nicholas Olson, Student Senator

To the Editors:

It is no secret that the cost of higher education is rising overall, and with this trend of price increases, little fees or costs for services rise slightly as well. Students frequently express concern about the lack of transparency around these increases and wonder what their money is going to. It should be no surprise that students have been alarmed at the 50-cent price increase for laundry. Students often feel “nickel-and-dimed” by the College as they notice rises in little necessities, especially in these cases where the increase is literally nickels and dimes. As a student senator, I have spoken with several students and read reactions online in social media about how students are interpreting this change. Many simply wonder, “WHY?” So, I interviewed Director of Dining Services Michele Gross about why and how this price decision was made, and I would like to share the information she provided.

The core reasoning of why the price increased is because the school renewed the contract with the laundry machine company that we use, and the cost agreement in the new contract is higher because of the overall increases in prices as the business grows and as it reflects inflation. The school decided to reflect the contract price in the price of doing a load of laundry. Ms. Gross emphasized that the last time the school increased laundry prices was five years ago, and that is generally the average time between price increases. In five years, it is likely the prices will go up again. The alternative option to this relatively large increase every five years, she stated, would be to have small, yearly, incremental price increases. She said this would be difficult because the machines are only designed to accept quarters, and the yearly increases would be less than 25-cent increments. She gave no indication that the price would reach a threshold where it would stop increasing, and she stated that it would not make sense for prices to decrease.

One other factor in the price increase is that the school bought new machines for all but four dorms. This price change is not necessarily intended to offset those costs, but the income from the price increase may help. Many of the machines in the dorms are fairly old, and their age shows in their quality of service, which is why the school chose to purchase new ones. These will be installed in the near future.

I asked Ms. Gross why there has been no communication about this change, and explained that students are alarmed when they see price increases that seem arbitrary with no explanation. She said that she didn’t see it as necessary since the cost change was a few cents, and when the price increased in the past, there was no alarmed response. It seemed unnecessary to her because there was little precedent. She said price increases happen across campus in little ways without communication all of the time, without needing to alert students. Her comparison example was a recent increase in broken bed frame replacement prices. I asked how she accounted for the expansive impact of this policy, since almost every student uses the laundry machines as a necessity, and few students need to replace beds. She had not considered that, and explained that she also could not figure how to tell the student body.

She questioned me about how to determine which price raises to publicize and how to do it, thinking about what is necessary and where to target communication. Resident assistants, I explained, are a perfect body to ask about how students might respond to these kinds of student life policy changes, and they provide an easy vehicle to spread information. I suggested posting a flyer in each laundry room with the information she told me, so that students would have easy access to the reasons for these very noticeable price increases, and that this would prevent speculation about the reasons why, although students may still feel alarmed and nickel-and-dimed.

–Nicholas Olson

Student Senator