When Doing Laundry Starts Looking Like a Privilege
Students use Brave Cards, or coins if they can find them during the pandemic-related coin shortage, to operate the washers and dryers like these shown here in the laundry room of UNCP's Oak Hall. PN Photo/Andrew Thrift.
By Andrew Thrift, Contributor
Published November 19, 2020
Students expect to open thousands of dollars to attend North Carolina's state colleges, but in addition to tuition, room, meal plan, books and "fees," they might not have factored in the cost of washing their clothes.
There is no consistency across the UNC system in how student are charged in the residence halls, and at UNCP the cost of doing your laundry is exacerbated by the pandemic coin shortage.
Students pay by the load when using the machines that are provided by a third-party vendor in their residence halls.
At Pembroke, it costs about two dollars per load when washing and drying. The machines take quarters or Braves Card. The exception is Courtyard, where each apartment has its own machines owned by the university.
"We are in the middle of a national coin shortage and they expect us to pay for our laundry with coins?" asked Casey Bell, a resident of Oak Hall. "I just got home to do my laundry because I know I won't have to pay for it there," added Bell.
Some students have had to add Braves Dollars on to their Braves Cards, which "is a pain," says Chloe Cramer of Oak Hall.
"We have to load 10 dollars or more onto our Braves Card at a time. Some students don't have the ability to put money onto their card, which is making it harder for them to do their basic necessities," said Cramer.
Oak Hall resident Ashley Arriaga agrees that some students don't have the cash flow for washing their clothes on campus.
"I personally do my laundry at home, because I don't want to spend my money here. We don't know everyone's backgrounds. Some student don't have the ability to spend the money," said Arriaga.
"With housing, it should definitely be included. Paying per load inconveniences most of us," said Katie Pressley of Cypress Hall. Like others interviewed for this story, she said, "I find myself taking my laundry home rather than paying for it here."
Chapel Hill also charges their students to wash their clothes. Lindsey Ware lives on that campus and says she pays about three dollars to wash and dry one load.
At Appalachian State University, the student government worked to get laundry included in the housing price tag, which was resolved in time for the current school year.
"I feel that this is especially important during the current situation with having to wear masks all the time and the constant need to wash our reusable masks," sayid Alyssa Svalina, a resident of ASU's Cone Hall.
Wilmington, ECU, Charlotte and Greensboro have laundry fees included in their housing costs.
UNCP's Director of Housing and Residence Life Paul Posener says the school's goal is to keep room rates as low as possible for all students.
"If we were to include that cost in the room rate, it would increase the room rate for all students, which we do not wish to do," said Posener.
"The current room rate has not increased from last year, and our hope is to keep those rates low again next year. Our goal is always to keep costs low for students and not pass on an extra added costs," Posener added.
Posener points out that UNCP has some of the lowest room rates in the UNC system.
"We are committed to making the total cost of education as affordable as practicable and keeping room rates low by not passing on additional pay-for-use service fees like laundry to all residential students, as only some residents take advantage of that particular service," said Posener.
Robbie Evans, a resident of Pine Hall, thinks UNC Pembroke is treating laundry like a privilege. "UNC Pembroke is marketed as an affordable school compared to other UNC-system schools," said Evans. "But I feel like if they were to add the laundry costs into housing [bill], it wouldn't make a huge difference in the overall costs. If I have to pay two dollars every time I have to do laundry, I start to question how much money I am actually spending," added Evans.
Evans said she, too, has started taking her laundry home. She only doe laundry here on campus if it's an "emergency" or if she is unable to go home.
According to Posener, the university does not profit from the laundry vendor contract, and if there is revenue above the cost, that difference is put into student scholarships.