How much of a demand is there for air-conditioned dorms in MN?


Students may still be sweating it out in their hot dorm rooms, but from what I’ve heard from MSU-Moorhead and some private colleges, the short-lived benefits of air conditioning usually aren’t worth the high cost.

And it’s students — not taxpayers — who apparently pay the bill.

MSU-Moorhead spokesman David Wahlberg said that unlike academic facilities such as classrooms — which get a lot of funding from the Legislature — residence halls get their funding from bonds. Those are repaid using the money made from renting out the rooms.

So just how much more would installing A/C into old residence halls cost students?

Wahlberg did some very rough math based on renovations completed last year to Dahl Hall. Assuming a 20-year bond, he calculated that installing A/C would cost each student another $190 a year.

That seems far below the $1,000 extra that MSU-Moorhead freshman Cali Fritz told me she’d be willing to pay for some cooling.

But was she just speaking out of temporary frustration?

Wahlberg says students showed little interest in cooling when allowed to vote on past renovation projects. Students put it behind other improvements, such as better furniture, a nicer lounge space and laundry facilities on every floor.

He said:

“Our students always been in drivers seat on this one. And they’ve said they don’t want to add it.”

What they have pushed for, he says, is a range of housing options on campus — from low-cost rooms without A/C to upper-end units with plenty of cooling.

So what’s the general cost difference between cooled and uncooled rooms?

Brian Yolitz, MnSCU‘s head of facilities, said a private, air-conditioned room is generally about 10 percent more expensive than a shared room without A/C.

It’s unclear whether students’ or administrators’ thinking on will change, given the potentially hotter summers to come.

Yolitz doesn’t see a shift anytime soon:

The weather this week will not cause us to revisit or overhaul [facilities] plans in the near term.  While 2012 and especially 2013 have been warmer than normal, in 2009 the temps were well below normal with highs of 73 and lows of 55.