UCLA housing officials plan to spend $8.2 million over the next year to build a needlessly expensive study spot in Hedrick dining hall.
Of the total cost, $2.4 million is set to go to architectural costs, including finishings and furnishings. About $2.5 million would go to electrical, mechanical and plumbing costs, and the rest would go to demolition, kitchen equipment and contingency.
While some of the costs make sense – improving the electrical wiring and demolishing parts of the dining hall that are no longer needed, for example – UCLA housing officials should spend our money more reasonably when it comes to the design of the study room. The pretty furniture and expensive architectural improvements are little comfort in the face of ballooning housing costs that stretch students’ budgets and drive them further into debt.
The cost of living on the Hill has gone up steadily in recent years. In the 2009-2010 school year, staying in a triple in a standard residence hall and having two meals a day cost about $10,430. This school year, it cost $11,970.
That cost is difficult to justify in itself, particularly at a public university that is supposed to provide affordable and accessible education for all Californians. But it becomes almost impossible to explain in the context of the myriad of improvements the Hill has undertaken in the past several years alone.
Housing has been planning million-dollar projects on a regular basis in recent years, including Rendezvous, De Neve dining hall and Bruin Plate building and renovations. De Neve dining hall and Rendezvous renovation budgets amounted to about $3.6 million recently, and Hedrick dining hall has also switched from a test kitchen to De Neve at Hedrick in the last two school years.
The study room is a needlessly exorbitant addition to the Hill that drives costs up more than it benefits students living in the dorms.
To be fair, students on the Hill have often complained about not having enough places to study or get food overnight, and this project would help alleviate that problem. Expanding UCLA’s bakery operations as a part of the Hedrick renovation project to save the university money from outsourcing pastries is also a smart move.
But we don’t have to spend $8 million to get those benefits.
Housing officials say they are taking the better road by trying to deliver the “lowest cost, highest quality” dining options for UCLA students.
But students need less-expensive food and dorms more than they need to write on fancy tables and sit on upscale couches. UCLA housing needs to start prioritizing lowest cost options instead of letting them take a back seat to misguided notions about what college students need.