Linbo Fan / Sun File Photo

Akwe:kon is one of 11 program houses scattered across Cornell's campus. The program houses seek to give students "the chance to develop and immerse yourself in interests within an engaging community of residents and out-of-house members," according to the program housing website.

October 1, 2019

Cornell Halts Out-of-House Program House Fee Increase Amidst Student Concerns

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Out-of-House Membership fees for program houses Ujamaa, Just About Music and the Latino Living Center were originally expected to increase in the upcoming academic year. However, for this semester, the Office of Housing and Residential Life has decided to keep the fees constant.

The Office of Housing and Residential Life originally planned to increase the fees in the spring of 2019 for the 2019-2020 academic year, according to Timothy Blair, executive director of Housing and Residence Life. This change was shared at open house events meant to welcome students.

Cornellians seeking to experience the external benefits of program living but who don’t want to live in the house can pay a program fee in order to access the house. All program houses at Cornell, except the Equity & Engagement Living-Learning Community, offer out-of-house memberships for non-residents to engage in the programming and receive benefits similar to residents.

Out-of-house membership benefits include access to the building and all public areas in the program house, according to the out-of-house membership application form. Members are also invited to all events and workshops at the program houses.

The program house fees are used to support the activities the communities offer, according to the Cornell housing site. The program fee is different for resident members and out-of-house members in an individual house, as the in-house rate is slightly higher. It also varies by different program houses. The recently-opened Loving House has the lowest program fee at $30 per year, while both Risley and the Language House have the highest program fees at $100 per year.

The decision comes after students voiced concerns to the administration about the spike in “some out-of-house fees and the lack of coordinated communication regarding these changes prior to implementation,” according to Blair.

Blair also said that residence hall directors were instructed to let students know that if there were any concerns about financial barriers to participation that they should discuss these issues with the directors.

Some students expressed concern over the affordability of the new membership. Ezi Osuoha ’22 said that an increase in the out-of-house membership — which was set to rocket from $10 to $60 per year — makes being a part of the Ujamaa community harder for people that do not live there.

“I didn’t have $60 to spend on the out of house membership and I think it is highly exploitative for the University to increase this fee and by doing so, decrease the amount of people who feel like [Ujamaa] is a second home to them,” Osuoha wrote in a message to The Sun.

For the Language House, the new program house fee for both resident members and out-of-house members is $100 per year, beginning fall 2019.

“This is the first time in 35 years that the [Language House] has had a member fee,” Derron Borders, residence hall director of the Language House, told the Sun.

According to Borders, it was a necessary step to make up for budget cuts to the program house.

“The $50/semester fee was needed as the budget for the Language House has slowly decreased over the years. This fee is used to offset the decrease in funding to provide members of the Language House with programming and activities that support the mission of the Language House,” Borders told The Sun.

Blair said that there have also been “minimal increases” to the program house fees in the past few years, but fees for both residents and out-of-house members ultimately allow the houses to create “a memorable experience.”
“[O]ut-of-house member fees give us an important opportunity to make Program House events, speakers, and other programming available to a wider population who identify with each of our Program Houses,” Blair said.