Pennsylvania State University students are set to receive a reduction in room and board rates for the spring 2021 semester after the university said it was pushing back the start of in-person classes.

The Board of Trustees had originally set the cost of a standard double room at $3,427 per semester, while the cost of the mid-level meal plan was set at $2,449 per semester in 2020. Together, this combination of room and board amounted to $5,876 per semester. 

The move will bring down the cost of a standard double room and the mid-level meal plan for the new semester to $4,919 — a total cost reduction of 16.3 percent. 

The reduction to the room and board rates were calculated using a daily proration for the total number of days that remote classes will be held. This is similar to the changes made by the university last July, as it accounted for students not returning to campus after Thanksgiving.

Similar Reductions Elsewhere

Besides room and board, colleges and universities are also offering tuition discounts for the spring semester because of the pandemic. 

Since classes moved online for the fall semester last year, university students around the United States have been lobbying for reduced tuition. At Rutgers University, over 30,000 people signed a petition to cut tuition by 20 percent, forcing authorities to concede to a 15 percent reduction.

Lafayette College in Pennsylvania is welcoming students who wish to be on campus while also suggesting, “Any student who chooses to continue learning from home will receive a 10 percent reduction on their tuition.”

Tuition discounts have ranged from 10 percent — for universities like Princeton and Georgetown — to as much as 30 percent, as announced by Thomas University, Georgia.

However, despite colleges dropping tuition, room, and board rates, steep enrollment declines have continued to hammer colleges since last fall. 

Impact of Lower Income

A recent poll by consulting firm NEPC’s Endowments and Foundations team revealed 67 percent of higher education leaders believe financial losses resulting from decreased revenue from tuition and board are the biggest challenges colleges now face.

Penn State alone anticipates an estimated $26 million financial impact because of the delayed in-person start.

Talking about losses in housing and food services, Penn State spokesman Wyatt DuBois tried to ease concerns saying every year “a few hundred employees in Housing and Food Services” face a temporary break when students leave campus in January until they return for the spring semester.