Abel Hall Dorm Room
An Abel Hall dorm room is pictured on Oct. 20, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

As part of our initiative called Curious Cornhuskers, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, “Why is housing charging a storage fee to students over winter break? Is there any way to avoid this unforeseen charge?”

An email was sent to students on Oct. 1 describing housing and storage options over winter break. One of these options — the only one that guarantees that students have their same room next semester — is for students to pay $150 per month to store their possessions in their room. 

Charlie Francis, senior director of Housing and Dining Services, said the fee is meant to help University Housing determine how many students will be living on campus next semester.

“The storage fee helps ensure we know which students intend to return in the spring and which may not,” he said. “Incoming and transfer students who need [room] assignments will be assigned to rooms without current contracts.”

The reason for the fee is largely to cover the necessary upkeep of the dorms, Francis said, and the only way to avoid this fee is to move out of one's dorm.

“The fee will cover the cost of utilities to operate and staffing to secure the buildings during the interim time,” he said. “For students who cannot go home or continue to have obligations on campus and in the community, the halls will remain open.”

This cost of utilities and staff would usually be included in the housing contract students signed at the beginning of the year, but COVID-19 has created new uncertainties for the university.

“This academic year was broken into three sections to offer increased flexibility to students and their families,” Francis said. “Those sections are fall semester, winter interim and spring semester. In past years, the room rates for halls open over break were included in the total. That is not the case with the new contract structure. The fall and spring contracted periods only take into account the days between Aug. 14 to Nov. 26 and then Jan. 22 to May 8.”

The new fee was a surprise to students such as Claire Jumper, a freshman psychology major. Jumper said she won’t be paying the fee and will instead move her belongings out of her room in Eastside Suites.

“$300 extra, on top of the housing we’re already paying and tuition, sounds like a lot of money to me and my parents,” she said. “In the town hall, they said, ‘We made it an affordable option,’ which I feel is an assumption as to who can pay what and who that is affordable for.”

Jumper, who is unsure if she’ll be moving back into the dorms next semester, said she felt the university shouldn’t make students plan next semester's housing with many uncertainties surrounding the situation.

“I think it’s incredibly irresponsible for a university to assume that students will be able to know what they’re doing for the next semester in this time,” she said. “Assuming people can make a decision about January through May in October, when we have no idea what’s going to happen between now and then with the pandemic, with the election, with safety protocols, we have no idea.”