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College hopes to reduce deficit from low enrollment through room buyouts

Fall+semester+room+buyouts+will+cost+%24330%2C+and+spring+semester+buyouts+will+cost+%24660.+If+a+student+purchases+a+buyout+for+both+semesters+the+total+would+be+%24990.+Requests+will+be+reviewed+on+a+weekly+basis.+
Makai Yllanes
Fall semester room buyouts will cost $330, and spring semester buyouts will cost $660. If a student purchases a buyout for both semesters the total would be $990. Requests will be reviewed on a weekly basis.

Ithaca College recently introduced room buyouts for students as one of the ways to reduce the college’s deficit for the 2024 fiscal year.

The college has offered this before, most recently during Spring 2022 as a result of low enrollment following the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Oct. 9, the Office of Residential Life sent out an email to the campus community informing students of their ability to purchase the vacancy in their double room for either the spring or previous fall semester, or both.

Room buyouts are only available to those already in a double room without a roommate who wish to keep the vacancy. A student can only buyout one space in a double room and buyouts for single rooms in apartments are unavailable. 

The college is offering room buyouts as a result of low enrollment following the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Timothy Downs, vice president for finance and administration and chief financial officer. Downs said via email that the college experienced its lowest enrollment in the 202324 academic year. In the Fall 2020, total enrollment was 5,354. Since then, enrollment has decreased to 5,239 in Fall 2021, 5,054 in Fall 2022, and by the start of Fall 2023, enrollment was at 4,828.

Downs said that for the 2024 fiscal year, the college has a budget deficit of $12.5M, which means the college’s expenses are projected to be more than its income.  Whether the college is in a deficit or not is determined by analyzing its operating expenses and revenue, which are data points in the college’s audited financial statement

“Any additional funds we bring in, such as the room buyouts, go toward reducing our deficit.” Downs said. “In other words, the college will lose less money this year, our lowest enrollment year.”

The price for one semester in a single dorm is $5,239.50. The price for staying in a double dorm with a roommate for one semester is $4,580. The price for one semester in a double dorm after adding the price of $660 for a room buyout would be $5,240. 

“Generally our tuition, room, and board revenue all go toward funding the college’s operating budget – including financial aid.” Downs said via email. “There is, generally, not a direct tie between how one revenue source funds a specific expense.”

Amanda Walrad, assistant director for housing, residential life, and student conduct and community standards, said via email that the buyout rate is determined by calculating the difference between the rates of a single room and a double room. 

“So students who buy out the space are paying the single room rate,” Walrad said. “Buyout fees are charged to a student’s account with Student Financial Services, and the funds go to the Finance office to determine the allocation of the proceeds.”

Shana Gore, interim associate vice president of enrollment and student success, said via email that room buyouts do not impact financial aid.

Ryan McCarty, housing specialist at Residential Life’s Central Office, clarified information via email regarding the availability of singles versus double dorms.

“The student population requesting a single outnumbers the number of singles we have on campus by a large margin,” McCarty said.

First-year student Jeff Hauck is looking to buy a single room next year and said he sees many benefits of paying extra for his own space.

“Honestly, it’s surprising to me that they don’t ask for more money … $600 something is really worth it,” Hauck said. “I think it’s a pretty decent decision if you’re looking to live on your own and still have space.”

Hauck said upkeep and cleaning might be an issue for some people because the added challenge of having a double room is more responsibility. Extra furniture in rooms will not be removed and students will be able to use the room in its entirety after a room buyout.

“I think the whole idea is with a single you have an entire room to yourself with all the necessities for yourself,” Hauck said. “If you do a room buyout, you’re actually getting more for less because you’d have two beds, two desks, you could have the room for somebody to come or stay.” 

As the college looks toward the 202425 academic year, Downs said administration is expecting enrollment to go up after the last COVID class graduates in May 2024. 

“Our total enrollment is low (specifically at our lowest point this fiscal year) because of the COVID classes…Additionally, our Fall 2021 class was small – the two smallest classes in a long time,” Downs said via email.

Downs said COVID-19 mainly impacted enrollment following the current graduating class and a larger class should start in the Fall of 2024. Downs anticipates that total student enrollment will increase at least by 200 students in Fall 2024, after the COVID class graduates.

According to Downs, this will mean there should be about 200 less rooms next year.

Hauck said he wishes the room buyout option was marketed more to students.

“I only know two people or maybe three that live alone. … I haven’t heard anything about it, but I honestly should and I want to hear more about it,” Hauck said. “I thought getting a single was the way to go but that honestly makes more sense if you have the option.”

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Makai Yllanes, Assistant Video Editor
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