UC Berkeley room and board among costliest in nation

Anna Vignet/Senior Staff
Freshman Ashmita Baral sitting in her dorm room in Unit 2.

Living expenses can significantly increase the cost of going to college, and for UC Berkeley students living on-campus, the cost of room and board is among the highest in the country.

In a recent ranking by U.S. News & World Report, UC Berkeley is second on a list of the 10 most expensive room and board fees for the 2011-2012 academic year — the only other public school besides UC Santa Cruz to make the list.

With an average annual cost of $15,272, the fees are more than $6,000 higher than the $9,047 average across all schools, according to a U.S. News survey of 1,130 schools.

Location is the primary reason why living expenses at UC Berkeley are higher on average than other public schools, said Marty Takimoto, director of marketing communications for Residential and Student Services Programs at UC Berkeley.

Because the university is located in a major urban area, “everything from space to construction costs to food costs is going to be higher,” Takimoto said.

The fees, he said, cover utilities, operational costs, internet and cable access, as well as student programming.

“Ninety-seven percent of freshmen live in residence halls, and as part of their experience, we have support programs that assist them through their first year at Berkeley,” Takimoto said.

However, Ashmita Baral, a freshman living in Unit 2, said the programs are not well-publicized and may not be worth the extra cost.

“I don’t think many students are informed about it, so even if it is included in the cost, I don’t think it’s worth it.”

Baral added her parents, who are paying for her housing, urged her to live in an off-campus apartment, but she wanted the experience of living in a dorm. She plans on moving into an off-campus apartment next year.

Freshman Alissa Dawson said the housing fees combined with daily expenses in Berkeley are steep. However, the convenience of on-campus living is worth the cost, she said.

To help offset the rise of tuition fees and provide accessibility for housing, the program put a one-year moratorium on room and board increases last year, Takimoto said. This year, there is a 2 percent increase for housing costs.

To help fund construction and outstanding debts in the long-term, the program is refinancing properties and reducing operational costs.

“We were able to reduce our operating expenses by about $1.8 million last year,” Takimoto said. “We want to make sure that students are able to live with us and attend the university.”