NYU London students staying at Urbanest King’s Cross are paying some £2,278 ($3,293.57) a semester in unaccounted fees for their accommodation. An investigation by Bedford Square News has found that NYU students living in external housing at Urbanest pay £134 ($193.74) a week more than non-NYU residents for no apparent reason. While the standard rates listed for the “en-suite” rooms range from £259-289 per week, we calculated an generous average rent of rooms of £280 per week. In actuality, NYU students pay £414 ($597.42) a week, which translates to £7,038 ($10,156.19) for a 17-week semester in housing costs. Those 135 students paying an extra £134 a week add up to £307,530 ($444,631.49) a semester in unaccounted for fees.
This is in stark contrast to the situation at the London School of Economics. It has a similar agreement with Urbanest for housing their students, but the cost of a single en-suite room is £228.38-239.31 a week, less than even the £259 Urbanest typically charges for the rooms. This includes “all facilities, services and amenities” as well as a Warden who provides “pastoral care” to LSE students on the premises, similar to an RA. Even at the most expensive rate, LSE students are paying £174.69 a week less than NYU students in the same situation.
So where is this money going? Neither the NYU or the NYUL administrations could provide any straightforward answers when asked about the fees, and the representative BSN was directed to wouldn’t be able to meet properly to discuss the matter before this issue’s deadline. They did, however, provide some possible explanations for the unaccounted money.
One explanation was that utilities (services such as water, gas, sewer and electricity) and housekeeping cost extra, but the Urbanest website indicates that these costs are included in the general rent. The only costs excluded are council tax and the UK TV license, neither of which NYU students pay. Another suggestion for the cost given was that of additional furnishings for kitchens, with toasters being given as an example. However, all en-suite rooms at Urbanest are already equipped with kitchens “finished to the highest standard with stainless steel appliances and dishwashers” according to the description. The NYU description of the space further states that linen is provided along with a “fully equipped shared kitchen area with [an] oven, stove, microwave, kettle, and cookware.” While there is no specification regarding toasters, they can be found for £4.49-44.99 at Argos, and would therefore only cover a fraction of the extra £134 per week if NYU was in fact providing it.
The resident assistant (RA) program was also suggested as a possibility. Two RAs and one staff member do have free accommodation, but this and the res life budget would likely be minimal. While the exact details about where the money for RAs comes from are unclear, one source said it was in fact a grant, and therefore would not be part of housing costs. According to the NYUL RA job description, “RA’s may sometimes incur very small out of pocket travel expenses, e.g. taking the Tube to an event in London. Compensation for this would be through additional benefits such as paid meals and/or free tickets or admission to events and venues.” This further suggests that the money is not a part of the RA/res life budget.
The $10,156 cost paid by Urbanest students makes it the most expensive housing in the global network, more expensive than single rooms in Sydney and Washington, D.C. and more expensive than all but one of the housing options available to upperclassmen in New York, and none of the above explanations provides an answer as to where the extra $444,631.49 goes each semester: if it isn’t for utilities, TVs, housekeeping, res life, council taxes or toasters, then what? If the current lack of transparency on the part of the NYU administration persists we may never know.