Student housing at the University of Kansas is the least expensive of any school in the former Big 8 conference.

In an era when all college-related costs continues to rise, the University of Kansas Department of Student Housing uses different strategies to keep every cost down.

According to the Office of Admissions website, room and board cost students an average of $7,650 for the 2014-15 academic year. This is the least expensive amount among the schools that were in the Big 8 conference.

“I think we’re competitive within the Big 12, and probably some of our former old Big 8 colleagues’ rates might be a little bit higher,” said Diana Robertson, director of student housing.

Among the former Big 8 schools, the University of Colorado at Boulder was the most expensive, averaging $13,194 for room and board during an academic year. That’s about 1.72 times the amount of room and board at Kansas.

The University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the University of Missouri were the next highest, averaging $9,961 and $9,640 per academic year.

Current Big 12 schools finished out the list with Oklahoma averaging $9,126, Oklahoma State averaging $8,710, Iowa State averaging $8,070 and Kansas State averaging $8,000 in room and board for the 2014-15 academic year.

How does Kansas have lower rates than other universities?

“Some of that has to do with if they’re building new buildings or not,” Robertson said. “Certainly the rates in our new [Self and Oswald] halls are higher than our current halls.”

The Department of Student Housing evaluates each decision it makes regarding mechanical systems and operating systems, Robertson said.

“Do we gain more by putting in new [windows] and having higher efficiency levels, perhaps, or is it better to not spend those dollars and leave something a little bit older a little bit longer?” Robertson said. “That’s a daily part of our thinking.”

Robertson said one of the things the department prides itself on is the variety of living options for students, and that variety helps give the University a lower average in room and board rates.

During the 2015-16 academic year, there will be four renovated residence hall options: Gertrude Sellards Pearson, Ellsworth, Hashinger and Lewis Halls.

Corbin Hall and Oliver Hall will be the only two non-renovated halls, as McCollum Hall will be taken down this summer. Oswald and Self Halls are the two that will replace McCollum.

In contrast to the residence halls, the University offers 12 different non-coed scholarship halls — six for each gender.

There are apartment options for the upcoming academic year as well: Jayhawker Towers, McCarthy Hall Apartments and Sunflower Apartments. The Sunflower Apartments are a little different, as the residents pay monthly rates, unlike the other campus apartments. Like McCollum, the current Stouffer Place Apartments are slated for demolition this summer.

Another way Robertson says the University keeps costs down is through storied plans for renovations. The renovation program started in 1997 with Templin Hall and continued renovations down Engel Road, with Lewis, Hashinger and Ellsworth halls. Once Ellsworth was renovated in 2003, the department remodeled GSP on the other side of campus.

During those 18 years, the department evaluated whether to renovate or build new construction. Every building was deemed suitable to renovate except McCollum, where it was determined to be more cost-effective to build new buildings, Robertson said.

“[McCollum is] our largest building, and it’s our biggest challenge as well,” Robertson said. “We began to review whether it was best to bring that building down and build new, or renovate. It was really going to be more cost effective and we get a product that is designed exactly for today’s students.”

In the future, the department will continue to evaluate renovation versus new construction, Robertson said.

“We are constantly looking at the greatest advantage,” Robertson said. “It’s a constant, constant, decision making process just to see how we can really use our students’ dollars to the best advantage.”

— Edited by Valerie Haag