Massive college rent rises

Alex Coke-Woods 9 February 2008

Alex Coke-Woods

Deputy News Editor

Newnham students are facing huge rent hikes over the next five years, unless another solution can be found for the college’s spiralling deficit.

The all-women’s college is proposing rent rises of 8.5% every year for the next five years, which students claim is an unfair deal.

Eloise Hayes, a 2nd year English student, told The Cambridge Student (TCS): “There are students who are by degrees dissatisfied to extremely dissatisfied.”

Many students feel that 8.5% is just too steep an increase on the £850 they already pay each term. Some rooms within the college may not even warrant their current £85 per week price tag, according to some students posting on a Facebook group campaigning against the rent hikes.

Even though accommodation at Newnham all costs the same amount, rooms in one particular block – Peile – are well known for their problems with heating and hot water.

“A raise in rent, if unaccompanied by improvements in facilities, would be financially difficult for students – there’s a difference between having to balance the books and having to deal with the reality of having to sleep in a tracksuit and woolly hat,” Hayes said.

Another student, 3rd year Natsci Anne Forbes, explained how she saw the stituation: “We understand that there is a shortfall in money, but why should it come from our rent?

“I think people understand why college are intending to raise rents, but they do feel it’s unfair,” she said.

Despite their discontent, Newnhamites are reluctant to take direct action against the college, and there has been no suggestion of a rent strike.

Instead, students remain determined to negotiate with the bursary.

In the hope of finding a solution acceptable to both sides, representatives from Newnham JCR and MCR have been invited to put forward proposals to college authorities.

“I think people are hopeful that college and the JCR can find a solution,” said Forbes.

But when contacted by TCS, Newnham Senior Tutor Dr. Terri Apter, insisted on the necessity of the raise in rent prices: “College has done projections which show that increases of this order are necessary to eradicate the deficit in the accommodation account within a five year period,” she explained.

Although the proposed rent rises are well above the current rate of inflation, the steep increases are apparently necessary if the college is to meet “rising costs in maintenance,” and “above inflation increases in staff costs,” Dr. Apter added.

Students facing financial hardship and unable to deal with increased rent costs may be eligible for college bursaries, a Newnham spokeswoman said.