Lower hike in hostel fees but students hope for more improvements

By Michelle Racho

A photo taken from North Hill hall, one of the new halls built by NTU in the past two years.

Hostel fee increments were at their lowest in at least four years this year, with upward adjustments kept within a range of $5 to $10. This is half as much as the fee increases in the previous two years, which had ranged between $10 to $20.

Hall fees are raised each year mostly to defray the rising operating costs of hostels and fund maintenance works such as painting, toilet upgrading and security services, said a spokesperson from HAS.

Walls are repainted every five years, while mattresses and air-conditioning units are replaced every four and six years respectively.

Fees are also sometimes used to fund new hall facilities, such as hot and cold water dispensers in Graduate Hall 1, following a student’s suggestion.

Adjustments had been higher in earlier years as the older halls of residence had undergone an extensive overhaul with new furniture and fittings, said the HAS spokesperson.

To keep fee adjustments modest this year, energy-saving measures — such as lower energy air-handling units and smart lighting — were put in place to reduce operating costs, the spokesperson added. A bioswale, which recycles rainwater for gardening, was also installed at the Crescent and Pioneer Halls.

NTU’s monthly hall fees are currently the lowest among local universities. A standard non air-conditioned double room here costs between $255 to $295 a month, while a similar room in the National University of Singapore sets students back by about $320 a month.

NTU Student Union (NTUSU) president Edward Lim, 24, assured students that there are legitimate reasons for hall fee increases, which HAS shares with NTUSU each year.

“It is our job to ask the right questions to ensure that hall fees are not raised in an unjustified manner,” the final-year School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering student said.

Students’ reactions

But some students hope to see the fees used for improvements beyond cyclical maintenance works.

Elias Tan, 23, a final-year Nanyang Business School student and former Hall of Residence 8 resident, said he hopes the halls can be kept cleaner.

Tan, who lived in Hall 8 in his second and third years, said there were often many ants crawling on his table, shelves, and walls.

While helping his friend move into her hall room this semester, Tan also found ants behind her bed frame and a few baby cockroaches.

Banyan Hall resident Mark Wei, 22, feels the flooding issues should be rectified.

Last February, the Nanyang Chronicle reported that flooding frequently occured at the North Hill residential halls during heavy downpours.

Wei said the situation has not improved.

“I lived in a room at the corner of the corridor, so I was badly affected. I had water seeping into my room, and the shoes I left outside were soaked through,” said the second-year Renaissance Engineering Programme student.

But other students, like Tamarind Hall resident Looi Jie Sin, 24, feel the increasing costs are justified.

The final-year School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering student, who funds his hostel stay with his savings, said: “The price increase is quite fair considering rising electricity and water prices.”

“It is a bit of a strain on my finances, but it is definitely cheaper than renting a place outside of school.”