By Richard Zagrzecki
The University of Houston’s dining and housing programs experienced a number of positive changes over the past year to help improve the student experience.
Those accomplishments were spelled out during the annual Food Services and Student Housing town hall meetings, which were held Feb. 3 and 4 in the Fresh Food Co. in Moody Towers. The gatherings not only provided an overview of the past year, but allowed UH Dining and Student Housing to outline their strategic vision for 2015-16 to UH students, faculty and staff.
The entire presentations, including the proposed dining and housing rates for the 2015-16 academic year, can be viewed online here.
Among the highlights for UH Dining, the popular food truck program expanded over the past year, with the addition of late-night hours in the residential corridor and the inclusion of dessert trucks during the daytime rotation, said Amber Arguijo, marketing manager for UH Dining.
The residential dining halls underwent numerous enhancements, including expanded weekend brunch at the Fresh Food Co., the addition of homemade granola and croutons, expanded gluten-free offerings.
The start of the spring semester brought with it the opening of Freshii in the Student Center.
There’s more to come. UH Dining wants to increase the value for students with Cougar Cash discounts. More halal options are being explored. The residential menu will continue to be enhanced, as will nutrition programming that is offered.
Changes are being proposed to the meal plan structure. Besides Cougar Cash discounts, other key changes include unrestricted guest pass usage on Sasha Swipe and Cougar Choice plans, and a tiered plan pricing system. Rates are being adjusted slightly to address inflation costs.
“We want to continue providing affordable solutions for our students in alignment with President Khator’s goal of graduating students with the least amount of debt,” Arguijo said. “And we want to sustain the high quality, variety and viability of the program in the years to come.”
Over the past year, new housing software was implemented to provide better overall service, said Student Housing and Residential Life Executive Director Don Yackley. The new system is easier, faster, more reliable and more adaptable than the previous system.
This semester, Calhoun Lofts is no longer using AT&T U-verse and has switched to Philo, a next-generation IPTV platform that lets viewers watch content on their favorite devices. That will lead to a better customer service experience and improved Internet service.
Other recent additions that will benefit students include the installation of a bicycle repair station outside of Cougar Village II, as well as water bottle filling stations in various residential locations.
Housing rates are increasing slightly this coming year. The proposed rates are going up 3 percent to offset deferred maintenance costs, operating costs and debt service for recent new construction. Prior to the rate change, Student Housing and Residential Life looked closely at other universities in the region to see how much they were changing their rates, as well as a sampling of local apartment communities.
“Most housing programs will go up every year about 3 to 5 percent, depending on costs,” Yackley said. “And we’re really no different.”