Students returning from Winter Break are noticing some changes in their usual laundry routine: a 20 percent price increase of 25 cents per load, as well as the convenience of newly installed LaundryView software.
The software allows students to check the status of washers and dryers across campus from their computers. While some students are embracing this new convenience, others are displeased with the price increase.
According to Director of Finance and Campus Services Del Wilson and Assistant Director of Campus Services Chris Taylor, the price increase was made to accommodate rising utility costs and to pay for the cost of LaundryView.
LaundryView was installed across the campus during Winter Break and is now operational in all the campus laundry rooms. The service connects the washers and dryers in each building to laundryview.com, allowing students to check machine availability across campus. Students can receive e-mail alerts when a machine becomes available or when their laundry is done, or monitor how much time remains in each load.
"The benefit that LaundryView gives students makes it a really valuable added service," Taylor said. "I've talked to a few people and one in particular was overjoyed that it was there. As one of life's less friendly chores, this makes it at least more palatable."
Since 2003, when Bowdoin entered into its 10-year contract with Mac-Gray Corporation, a number of significant changes have been made. The College has added about 20 laundry machines to the freshman bricks, older equipment has been replaced with high-efficiency Maytag machines, and utility costs have risen by 17 percent to 22 percent each year. These circumstances have forced the College to reassess the costs associated with laundry and raise prices accordingly.
"The actual cost of the LaundryView is a little more than half of what we expect to receive in revenue from the vend price increase," said Wilson. "The remainder is to pay for the increased cost of utilities we've had over the last three-and-a-half years," Wilson said.
While considering a price increase, Wilson said that Mac-Gray informed Bowdoin of the LaundryView service, which other schools were implementing. The feature was piloted in Coles Tower last semester.
"We wanted to make sure that it worked first and foremost...only once it was installed in every location would we increase the vend price and start paying for the service," Wilson said.
The proposal to increase the price and add the LaundryView feature was made open to some students. Wilson ran the idea by groups on campus for input, including Bowdoin Student Government (BSG).
BSG Vice President of Facilities Will Donahoe '08 voiced his support from the group and said he thought Bowdoin students would appreciate the service.
"I said yes, as long as the cost stays competitive with the prices in town, otherwise it wouldn't be worth it," Donahoe said. "I understand people would be concerned about a price hike. If the price is going up anyway because of the price of utilities, then LaundryView sounded like a good plan."
Wilson and Taylor said that Bowdoin's prices are still competitive with those in the Brunswick area. Off campus a comparable wash cycle costs $2, with varying costs for drying laundry.
Sunshine Center Laundromat charges $1 per pound of laundry for a wash, dry, and folding, while Garden Island costs $1.10 for a wash and dry cycle. C&D Laundry charges $2 to $5 for a load of wash depending on the size of the machine used.
Students who do use off-campus laundry services generally do so out of convenience.
"There's no washer or dryer at Harpswell, so I prefer to do it off campus at Mr. Suds. It's cheaper and the dryers are more effective," Tyler Boier '07 said.
Students at peer colleges find laundry prices to be about the same. Bates charges $5 to buy a laundry card, on to which students can add money. A washing cycle costs $1.25, while a drying cycle costs $1.
Last year, Colby updated its laundry services by raising prices to $1.30 per cycle, switching to a new card system, and adding the LaundryView service. During the installation process, laundry was free to students for about 30 or 40 days.
"We did not raise our prices for Laundryview because we already had a price increase just previous to that," William Pottle, ColbyCard Manager said. "What we decided to do was increase our price to pay for utility costs and then also incorporate LaundryView as an extra."
"I don't think the price is that bad?I've heard of other colleges where it's around $1.75 per load," said Nicole Willey '08. "Maybe if they used the money to buy more washers and dryers, you wouldn't have to wait for laundry, especially on Sundays."
As for lower-income students, Director of Student Aid Steve Joyce said this price increase would not directly affect student aid. He said that as part of financial aid, students receive about $2,000 for books, supplies, and personal expenses, including laundry.
"There's a point where we need to make sure that's a reasonable amount for students to spend, and we increase the funds because of inflation or other costs. Laundry would be one of the many student living costs together that might make expenses go up," Joyce said.
While some students seemed unhappy about the price increase, other students consider it to be well worth the price increase.
"How could you not like it for an extra 50 cents? I think this is the best thing to come to the Bowdoin campus since Super Snack," Linzee Troubh '09 said.