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COVID-19 Hikes Housing Costs For Freshmen At University Of Idaho

GlacierGuyMT/ Flickr Creative Commons
Theophilus Tower on University of Idaho campus

Ben Borkowski just graduated from Sage International School of Boise this spring. He’ll start his college classes at the University of Idaho in Moscow this August. 


When he enrolled, he signed up to move into the residence hall for first-year students, Theophilus Tower, or “the Tower” as most people call it. 

When he chose to live there, it was the cheapest and most popular choice for incoming freshmen. The price was listed as $2,270/semester for a room he would share with one other student. 

But then the coronavirus pandemic hit. 

The Tower has communal bathrooms, so in order to follow CDC guidelines, it could no longer allow roommates.

“It's going to be kind of nice to have the room to myself,” said Borkowski. “But it's definitely kind of missing part of the college experience, not having a roommate.”

Students who want to stay in the Tower dorm now have to pay $425 extra each semester for a single room. 

Borkowski says the price hike won’t hurt him because he has a scholarship. But other students may be looking for cheaper options. 

Living with a roommate is still possible at the Wallace Residence Center, because they have private bathrooms. 

But no matter where freshmen who signed up for the Tower decide to live on campus, they will be paying more than they expected when they enrolled in spring. 

Double rooms in Wallace Residence center cost $2,315/ semester. Single rooms cost $3,182/ semester. 

“They've been promised a price point for the Tower...which it really doesn't exist anymore,” said John Kosh, Marketing Director of Auxiliary Services at University of Idaho. 

His department oversees things that make the university money, like residence halls and dining. 

Kosh said campus housing had to come up with a whole new pricing scheme to react to the modified capacity. 

“They spent their entire weekend pulling together all these minds and trying to balance it and be equitable at the same time,” said Kosh, “and know no matter what it looks like, there is disruption and that is so unfortunate.”

Kosh said figuring out the new price structure was a balancing act. They had to weigh the new cost of the single room in the Tower, while considering existing price points in other residence halls. 

“There was no rulebook. There is no rulebook. This is all happening to us in real time for the first time,” said Kosh. “And so did the answer suffice? I think it did for the majority.”

Kosh said that the university is trying to take into account student and parent needs, while also following safety guidelines. 

Incoming freshman Borkowski says the university seems to be doing the best it can given these unpredictable times.

“They are requiring masks like around campus and in classrooms and stuff. So I think they've thought about it. I think they're probably doing their best, it seems like, to make sure that it's a good experience,” said Borkowski.

When classes start, Borkowski will be in uncharted territory, navigating freshman year, the coronavirus pandemic, and making new friends six-feet apart. Still, he said, despite the risks and uncertainty, he’s looking forward to it. 

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