Students will pay more for housing and meals – less than 5 percent more – this fall at the University of Science and Arts, but rates will stay below most other colleges with new or refurbished housing, under new room and board plans approved by the USAO Board of Regents on Tuesday.


The price of a four-bedroom apartment in Lawson court will be $1,805, which is $85 more for the standard fall-spring school year. In Sparks Hall, a more traditional residence hall environment, the fall-spring combined rate is $1,145, or $55 more.


Students will pay slightly more for two-bedroom apartments in Lawson or private rooms in Sparks. Summer rates will go up similarly: $1,170 for a four-bedroom apartment summer contract, or about $55 more than last year.


“Housing rates at USAO will remain among the lowest for apartments and newly refurbished buildings in the state,” said Terry Winn, vice president for administrative affairs. “These increases are necessary each year to maintain the high level of service and amenities available to students in modern residence halls. We routinely seek input from students before changing anything in student life, including the rates they pay.”


Apartments in Lawson Court include full kitchens with dishwashers and a clubhouse filled with amenities.


Despite rate increases, USAO has enjoyed the highest residency retention rates in 10 years,” Winn said. “Since we built new housing, our numbers continue to rise each year. Lawson occupancy is more than 90 percent. Sparks is more than 70 percent full. Total residency on campus this spring is 411. Evidence of students’ approval is that we our two-bedroom apartments are completely full and those are the most expensive units we offer.”


A study is underway to add new housing at USAO over the next two years.


Regents also approved modest increases in meal plan rates. Five different plans are available to students, from 15 meals in the cafeteria per week to five. Some plans include a declining cash balance (DCB), which may be spent with an electronic card at the cafeteria, the convenience store in Lawson, or the Terrace Room.


For 15 meals per week through the fall and spring terms, a student pays $1,035. For 5 meals per week with a $300 DCB, the price is $995. All plans were adjusted upwards by 4 percent.


Students are not surprised or alarmed by the increases, said USAO Student President Jenny McElyea, who attends the USAO Regents meetings. Students are routinely involved in food service agreements, she said. “Our suggestions for improved services and menus have been implemented regularly.”


In other business, Regents approved the purchase of $26,230 in furniture for two new spaces in the USAO Student Center. Under construction in the basement -- vacated by the campus bookstore when it moved to the east entry of Senior Hall -- are new meeting and lounge spaces. On the south end is the new Student Center Lounge, which will offer students a new place with extended hours to meet, watch TV, study in groups and hang out between classes.


“Students are ecstatic about the new lounge area,” McElyea said. “They can’t wait to use the space.”


Adding their own touch to the new student lounge, student government officials voted this week to purchase a new large-screen television for that space.


On the north end of the basement level, a new conference room is being created to accommodate meetings of 20-120 people. It will accommodate student, staff, faculty and community meetings with or without food. Its features will include high-tech video and computer links to plasma screen televisions, and a specially designed sound system.


“We are delighted to be able to offer our students and all campus constituencies such a well-appointed new meeting facility,” Winn said. “This new space will give us many more options in accommodating multiple functions on the same day. We have too little space for campus meetings with food, and we turn down too many events. This room will allow us to serve more people and better.”


Both the student lounge and conference room are scheduled for completion later this spring. Funds for the project and furniture are coming from Sodhexo Campus Services and a student facilities fee.


Regents approved two new academic service fees. For music students, the accompanist fee will be raised from $30 to $50 per hour. Even after the increase, USAO will be among the lowest, as peer institutions charge their students between $50 and $170 per credit hour.


The other new academic service fee is for laboratories in chemistry and biology. Students in those lab sections will pay $15 per course. The fee is designed to offset the cost of breakage.


“Our average cost per student in these labs is $31-$36,” said Dr. J. Sanders Huguenin, vice president for academic affairs. “The academic departments have always absorbed those costs, but we are compelled to share them, as other universities do.”


In his monthly report to the Board, USAO President John Feaver discussed projections for fall enrollment. “The number of high school seniors applying to attend USAO this fall is up dramatically, nearly doubled over the past two years. We have high expectations for continued growth this year.”


Feaver also praised art student Marcie Price of Moore, who has been named to the prestigious George Nigh Scholar Institute.


Each university nominates a deserving student leader with high marks in academics and service. Price has served for four years as a student employee of the university, working in administrative offices and representing USAO at numerous events. Students in the Nigh Scholar Institute are given opportunities to meet state leaders and hone their skills and vision.


Feaver discussed new grant proposals under study and their prospects for funding, as well as fundraising trends and generous gifts to the USAO Foundation from individuals and other foundations.


While renovation of Troutt Hall auditorium continues at USAO, the college’s spring commencement on April 21 will be moved to the Chickasha Junior High Auditorium, Feaver announced.


Student President Jenny McElyea, serving as student representative to the USAO Board of Regents, announced that 11 student leaders are scheduled to attend the Oklahoma Student Government Association Conference this spring. “We’re very proud of our students and their potential,” McElyea said.


Staff Association President Anna Marie Pratt, serving as staff representative to the board, announced Staff Appreciation Day at USAO on March 17. On that day, staff members are invited to spend a day exploring southwest Oklahoma together, including Quannah Parker’s home in Cache, and the Wildlife Refuge and museum near Medicine Park.


In personnel matters, the Board approved the reappointment of college administrators and the resignation of Dr. Glenda Peters, assistant professor of education, for health reasons. Regents also approved the appointment of Lucretia Hinch as groundskeeper, and Charlene Woods as custodian.