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Claire Bauske, left, and Alyssa Burley live in Thompson Hall on the North Dakota State University campus in Fargo. The lounges in the dorm, which was built around 1970, are no frills. Dave Wallis/FNS

ND SBHE sets guidelines for campuses to raise room and board rates

BISMARCK - The State Board of Higher Education paved the way for North Dakota's public universities to raise room and board costs at its meeting here on Tuesday.It's a figure that's been climbing steadily on all 11 campuses in the North Dakota University System.

The costs at North Dakota State University are second highest in the system at $7,282 for a double occupancy and meal plan this year. Williston State has the highest at $7,548, and the University of North Dakota is third at $6,810.

Campuses set their own room and board rates, according to a document prepared by the board's budget and finance committee. They also set their own fees, unless those exceed 1 percent of tuition, in which case the board must approve them.

The guidelines approved Tuesday recommend that campus presidents take into account salary increases, necessary repairs and going rates in the regional market.

At NDSU, room and board hikes have hovered just below 3 percent in recent years, which is lower than the 5 percent increase in 2010 and higher percents in years prior.

But that's not much comfort to students who struggle with a price tag of more than $7,000 this year.

Next semester, Alyssa Burley will pay $1,567 for housing and $1,955 for food, for a semester total of $3,522. As a freshman from Duluth, Minn., she's required to live in the dorms - as are most freshmen, unless they are living nearby with their parents or are married.

Burley, 18, splits the cost of college with her parents. She pays off the loans, they pay the rest.

She said she might have gone to UND, which charges almost $500 less for room and board, but wanted to go to NDSU for its pharmacy program.

Her roommate, freshman Claire Bauske, said she understands NDSU's need to raise room and board rates, but questioned why UND's dorms are cheaper.

"I feel like we should be kind of in line with UND," said Bauske, 19. "I've seen their dorms, and it's pretty much the same, so I feel like the prices should be about the same, but it's not."

Bauske, who pays for college herself, is Thompson Hall's second-floor representative and recently voted for a 3 percent increase in room and board.

"It's been raised 10 percent in recent years, and so 3 percent seemed fairly reasonable to me," she said.

But Bauske and Burley agreed that for what they pay, they'd like a nicer lounge.

"We don't really have the nicest entryway up here, so nobody really uses it," said Burley, glancing toward the beige-colored space.

"I think there's definitely room for improvement," said Bauske, who'd like to see the area made more home-like, less stuffy.

Thompson Hall, built in 1967, hasn't received the same treatment they've seen given to their dining hall: new carpets, new bathrooms.

"It'd be interesting to see where the money actually did go," Bauske said.

NDSU officials did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.