Residential Life considers new flat fee for laundry

The potential fee is expected to be between $80 and 100.
Clothes wait to be collected from a washing machine in the Mark Twain laundry room on Feb. 15.

Room and board fees for students living in residence halls could soon include a flat fee estimated around $100 for laundry charges, according to the UM System Board of Curators’ fiscal year 2017 report.

The flat rate is not entirely set at this point, and it will depend on which new company picks up the bid for laundry services. However, it is estimated that the fee could be anywhere from $80 to over $100. Student staff will not have to pay the fee, as their room and board charges are covered by the Department of Residential Life.

The suggestion to implement a flat fee has been a topic of discussion in the Residence Halls Association’s Residential Living Committee since the beginning of the fall 2015 semester, RHA President Billy Donley said.

“It was one of the first discussion pieces that we had,” Donley said. “Right off the bat, we were talking about laundry. I think a lot of students will prefer it because ultimately it feels like a better value, and depending on how much laundry you do, it is a better value.”

The current contract with the laundry service provider for Residential Life will soon expire. Director of Residential Life Frankie Minor said RHA has been involved in the process of selecting a new provider, as well as advocating for the flat fee.

“We’re only going to do it if RHA endorses doing it,” Minor said. “We wanted to first find out, how serious are they about this?”

RHA is an important factor in the decision process, Minor said, because there are a few things about the upfront charge that could potentially be controversial.

“For some, this might not be such a good deal because the heavy users are going to be subsidized by the light users,” he said.

In addition, there will likely not be an option to choose a pay-as-you-go plan as opposed to the flat fee, so students who do not believe that they will use the laundry services often will still have to pay the entirety of the fee.

“We know that there might not be students who use the laundry at all,” Donley said. “We hope that it can encourage students to because I think a lot of students come here not knowing they can charge with their student charge — it’s just kind of an inconvenient system.”

Residential Life is also thinking of ways to ensure that only student residents are using the laundry services, such as requiring students to swipe their MU identification before being able to do a load of laundry.

If new vendors would be open to implementing a flat laundry fee, Minor said that the decision would go to RHA, who will have to come up with a formal resolution in support of the fee.

“We have a great relationship with the department,” Donley said. “Many other schools are not as lucky to have the relationship we do. Frankie works very hard to include us in decisions that should include the students.”

While no other universities in the UM System have implemented a flat fee, other universities around the nation have introduced a flat fee and seen positive results.

“What we hear, by and large, is that satisfaction goes up because you don’t see the money going in and out of your pocket right away,” Minor said. “I like our students to be satisfied.”

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