The College will no longer offer discounted housing rates to international students staying on campus for winter break after realizing this policy did not comply with the federal Fair Housing Act, according to Carly Jones, housing coordinator for the Office of Residence Life. The rate will change from $7 for international students to an $11 flat rate for all students — a change students claim they were not explicitly made aware of.
The College has a high proportion of international students; nearly 20 percent of the 2023 class is made up of international students from over 40 countries. Additionally, the Wooster student body also represents over 55 countries. Many of those students take advantage of the College’s housing accommodations over breaks, especially during winter break. Due to this, in the past the College has routinely offered discounted rates to international students staying in their dorms for the four-week period in which students have to pay a nightly rate.
Jones remarked, “In the recent past, the cost for international students and those who were staying on campus for a ‘college commitment’ were charged $7 per night. Everyone else was charged $15 per night.” That rate is now $11 per night for all students, according to the email sent out to the student body by Jones regarding winter break.
This change is due to the College realizing this discount did not comply with the Fair Housing Act. “Through trainings that we have been a part of in the last six months to a year, we learned that it is against the Fair Housing Act to charge different rates for different people based on their nation of origin,” said Jones. “It is also considered a taxable benefit when we lower the rate we charge for housing. Therefore, the decision was made by the Business Office and Dean of Students Office to move to one rate for all students for break housing. We found a rate that was in the middle of the previous two rates offered.”
“Unless the student is required to be here to participate in a College-sponsored activity (athletics, mandatory training, etc.), they will be charged $11 per night for the time that they are on campus,” Jones said. Though this change is concrete, not all students are aware of this flat rate for all students.
International students planning on staying during winter break remarked that they should’ve been explicitly made aware of the change. “I did not know that they had changed the pricing and had [to start] budgeting my stay over break accordingly,” Pratisth Pradhan ’22 said. “The people who stayed over breaks last year also told me that international students would have to pay less. Everyone seems oblivious about [the price change].”
Meklit Minassie ’22 held the same sentiment. “I was surprised to find out that we would not get a discount to stay over break. We should have been explicitly informed about it,” she said. The lack of an explicit indication of a price hike for international students seems to have contributed to this confusion.
However, this change was not made abruptly. Jones remarked, meetings were held with the director of international student services, dean of students and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer to discuss the changes. The message was sent to all students on Oct. 28 included information about nightly fees. The information is also available on our website, signs hung in the halls and was sent to faculty and staff.”
Though information may have been posted on ResLife’s web-site and sent out through a brief email on Oct. 28, neither directly acknowledged that international students will not be offered a discounted rate this year.