By Richard Zagrzecki
The dining and housing programs at the University of Houston are continuously evolving and incorporating positive changes as part of ongoing efforts to enhance the student experience.
Those accomplishments from the past year were detailed during the annual Food Services and Student Housing town hall meetings, which were held Feb. 2 and 3 in the Fresh Food Company in Moody Towers. The gatherings also allowed UH Dining and Student Housing to outline their strategic vision for the 2016-2017 academic year.
The entire presentations can be viewed online here.
Among the highlights for UH Dining, the food truck program continues to grow, with new trucks added to the rotation and a new late night pad opening soon.
Hours have been extended at the Student Center on nights and weekends. The Fresh Food Company has extended its breakfast during the week, and the dining hall will be open for lunch during spring break, UH Dining Marketing Manager Emily Fahner said.
In the coming weeks, a new Cougar Xpress location will open in the Law Center. Continued enhancements are being made to the Starbucks location in the Student Center Satellite. New halal and kosher snacks have been added to several Cougar Xpress locations.
Positive changes are also in store for the upcoming academic year, including a restructuring of the meal plan options students to better suit the needs of students and lessen the overall number of unused meals at the end of each semester.
“Our program needs to be financially sustainable, but it also needs to be affordable for our students,” Auxiliary Services Director Deborah Davis said. “Those are the goals we incorporated when restructuring the meal plans.”
Dining hall menus continue to be enhanced as a result of student requests, the nutritional program are being improved, and religious offerings are being expanded. Tapingo, an online ordering system, will be introduced, Fahner said.
UH Dining has also seen its scores increase by 40 points on the Voice of the Consumer survey, which allows customers to provide feedback on the service they received.
On-campus living continues to grow in popularity among students, said Don Yackley, executive director of Student Housing and Residential Life. The current occupancy rate is 96 percent, which is up from 94 percent in 2014 and 78 percent in 2013. The number of room bookings for this past fall was 7,368, which continues an upward trend and is more than 2,600 residents higher than six years ago.
“We have seen an increase in the number of students living on campus each and every year since at least 2009,” Yackley said.
Housing rates continue to stay competitive and affordable, and will be increasing only slightly – just 3 percent – for the coming year.
Yackley said there is plenty of other good news about the residential housing program. For one, a look at the numbers shows the four-year graduation rate for FTIC students who started at UH in 2010 was 3.5 percent higher for those who lived on campus when compared to commuter students.
Yackley said the retention rate for FTIC residents rose by 1.6 percent to 84.8 percent, a larger increase than was experienced in the past two years combined.
“While our main purpose is to provide housing for students, it goes hand in hand with our larger mission of helping students be successful and graduate,” he said. “These statistics show we are making good progress toward that goal.”