One of Columbia University's campus residence halls is facing a bit of a laundry predicament. The residence hall in question, Nussbaum, still requires the use of legacy prepaid laundry cards leading to issues for those students who do their laundry more than university housing may have expected.
According to the Columbia Spectator, the 2015-2016 academic year is the first in which first-year undergraduate students living in campus dorms don't have to pay for laundry. It's a policy that was announced prior to the 2015-16 academic year. But Nussbaum, in addition to housing a small number of first-year undergraduates, also plays home to general studies students, graduate students and private tenants, none of whom are entitled to the new free laundry policy. As a result, the laundry system in the dorm still requires all residents to use a laundry card when accessing the machines.
All other undergraduate dorms have removed payment machines from laundry rooms in accordance with the new free laundry policy, while the nearly 200 students in Nussbaum that are ineligible for free laundry services -- along with the undergraduates that are eligible for the free service -- continue to use the laundry cards.
The cards come preloaded with a $50 per-semester allowance paid for by university housing -- an amount deemed to be a conservative estimate for the average student. With a standard washer and dryer job running $2 each the prepaid card allows for each resident to run roughly one load of laundry per week at Nussbaum. This was the target amount university housing set for its laundry allowance.
The problem for some first-year students living in the dorm, however, is that one load of laundry per week isn't cutting it. Herein lies the friction with using the laundry cards. Despite the fact that those eligible for free laundry can reload the laundry card at no cost, the process to do so can be cumbersome. To reload the laundry card, students have to report to a campus hospitality desk and then wait a reported 24 hours for the funds to be refilled.
The university is exploring its options for a better solution come the spring semester, including an increase in laundry allowances from the current $50 semester limit to $60 to $75 per semester. There are currently no plans to integrate Nussbaum with the standardized system used by Columbia's other undergraduate residences.