Education

As campus empties, University of Iowa eyes future residence hall supports

'It's not a profit center for us'

Emily Burtch (center) and Sue Burtch (right), both of Iowa City, and Abbey Jamison of Onawa load a rug into the back of a truck Friday outside Burge Hall at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The UI is reviewing contracts with moving companies that would move and store student belongings — for a fee — over the summer. The university also is encouraging students to buy renters insurance. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Emily Burtch (center) and Sue Burtch (right), both of Iowa City, and Abbey Jamison of Onawa load a rug into the back of a truck Friday outside Burge Hall at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The UI is reviewing contracts with moving companies that would move and store student belongings — for a fee — over the summer. The university also is encouraging students to buy renters insurance. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — As many University of Iowa students this week crammed clothes and books into suitcases and boxes, vacating their campus — or near-campus — digs, UI administrators are investigating ways to make the residential part of their Hawkeye experience smoother and safer.

Earlier this year, the university began partnering with an outside agency to offer an easy way for students living in university-owned housing to get renters insurance — something UI Housing & Dining officials previously have encouraged but not facilitated.

“This is the first year of partnering with a specific vendor and integrating information into the housing application portal,” according to Von Stange, assistant vice president for student life and senior director of University Housing & Dining.

The university also is sifting through proposals from moving and storage companies interested in picking up, storing and delivering student belongings before, during and after summer break.

Administrators have yet to award a contract, but the hope is to begin providing moving services — for a fee — to students living on and off campus in May 2020.

The university gets no compensation for recommending the renters insurance through its website, which then links to the external provider’s site. And the UI didn’t pay the insurer — GradGuard, of Phoenix — to become part of its housing information system, according to Stange.

But the university is hoping to share revenue with any moving and storage company it picks to offer services, requesting all bidders propose a pricing structure — how much customers would pay per pound, per laborer, per box, per mile or other metric.

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The university received five bids from moving companies, and a UI committee is reviewing them and weighing in on the selection, according to Stange.

But he stressed Housing & Dining isn’t doing this to make money.

“It’s not a profit center for us,” Stange said, estimating a reasonable cut would be 5 percent and stressing all of it would go back into student programming or scholarships. “That’s money we want to give back to the students in some form or fashion.”

Any moving company UI chooses would have to market directly to students — providing a website where students can sign up. Movers would provide boxes, packing material and tape. It also would be required to fulfill pickup requests during finals week.

The company also would have to provide a local, secure and temperature-controlled storage facility for student belongings.

Those belongings could be protected through the renters insurance UI began promoting this year for students signing up to live on campus in the fall. Officials don’t yet know how many would-be residents purchased the insurance because first-year housing contracts haven’t been finalized.

A UI Housing & Dining survey a few years ago found fewer than half the residence hall respondents had renters insurance — and that the UI doesn’t cover the loss of anything students bring into their rooms.

Between 2015 and 2017, UI police took 58 burglary reports in on-campus housing, according to the UI Department of Public Safety’s 2018 annual report.

Annual cost of the GradGuard renters insurance — with a $100 deductible — range from $134 to $149. The annual cost with a $1,000 deductible is $118, according to the UI agreement.

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A policy covers up to $5,000 lost through theft, vandalism, fire, water damage or other occurrences. It would cover up to $100,000 “in the event a student is found legally liable for property damage or bodily injury to others in the student’s residence.”

Iowa State doesn’t offer renter’s insurance to its on-campus residence, nor does it partner with a vendor.

But a New York-based mover — College Truckers — does offer move-out and storage services to Iowa State students living both on and off campus, according to ISU spokeswoman Annette Hacker.

The insurance and moving aid comes as the regent universities encourage residence hall living — which already comes stacked with support systems, like residence assistants, living learning communities, transportation, meal plans and convenient billing.

“Research shows that students who live in the residence halls tend to do better academically,” Stange said. “We believe their retention level from first to second year is higher.”

Before the UI recently added two massive new residence halls — one on the east side of campus and one on the west side — on-campus housing was tight, requiring wait lists and lobbies converted into dorm rooms.

This year, the university reported just over 6,000 students at the start of the school year — under its 6,660-student housing capacity. Stange projected comparable numbers for next year.

UI freshman Meaghan O’Neill, 19, of La Grange, Ill., said she enjoyed her first year in the residence halls but is moving to an apartment next year. And, as her dad heaved a mini-fridge into the back of the family vehicle Friday, he expressed doubts many will take advantage of the moving service.

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“If I know college students the way I know college students — I know parents who are paying the bills — I would say, financially speaking, it doesn’t seem solid,” Joseph O’Neill said. “If somebody wants to pay for it, that’s the beauty of America ... You should have the right to do whatever you want.

“But generally speaking, 90 to 95 percent probably are going to continue doing it this way.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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