West Palm Beach, Fla. - Students who either saw or heard about the Palm Beach Atlantic University Admissions office post on Instagram continue to buzz about it. The caption on the picture posted on Jan. 31 via @pbaadmissions reads: “Starting this fall, all PBA students who live on campus will be the first to experience free laundry!” While enticing, the caption that suggests students will no longer pay for washing clothes on campus leaves out an important detail - “free” does not mean free.
The Beacon started its investigation of the @pbaadmissions Instagram account at the Office of Admissions. Initially, employees seemed unaware of who was in charge of their social media account. It was suggested the reporter email the Residence Life office to uncover more details about “free laundry” service starting in the fall.
Residence Life suggested the reporter contact Mark Bresnahan, PBA Assistant Vice President of Auxiliary Services and Procurement. In a sit-down interview, The Beacon discovered it was his office that spearheaded a move to change PBA laundry service.
Bresnahan said he was unaware of Admissions announcing on social media that laundry services would be “free” beginning this fall. When questioned about the wording of such post, he assured The Beacon his office never used the word “free.”
“I have been labeling it as ‘all-inclusive’ - not free. We should probably take a look at how other universities have been wording it,” Bresnahan said.
After PBA changed laundry service providers from Coinamatic to CSC ServiceWorks last year, the Office of Finance, Administration and Planning began researching the most efficient way students could wash their clothes. By switching to an all-inclusive service, PBA would follow a national trend among universities. Such a move, according to Bresnahan, will also eliminate problems like card reader malfunctions and coin slot jams that lead to broken machines.
“Senior leadership and I try to do things that will accommodate the students in the best way possible. This may be a small way in doing that,” Bresnahan said. “This will be a worry that is taken away for students.”
But, there is a cost to it. According to Bresnahan, housing fees would need to be raised $40 per semester to absorb the associated costs. Some of the expenses considered were rental fees for the machines, water, electricity and associated maintenance.
Bresnahan added that over 50 percent of academic accounts run by CSC ServiceWorks nationwide are all-inclusive, with other universities charging upwards of $50 per semester for this service.
“I don’t think too many students will be making their decision of whether to live on campus or off campus based on this laundry change,” Bresnahan said.
The Beacon returned to the Residence Life office to continue its search for the person responsible for the “free laundry” Instagram post. The front desk attendant at Residence Life called the Admissions office on the phone. The person who answered the phone advised the reporter to come back to Admissions and speak with either Lexie Brantley or Angie Abel. This would be the office where the initial investigation began.
A closer inspection by The Beacon of what PBA Admissions meant by “free laundry” doesn’t fit the Merriam-Webster definition of, “not costing or charging anything.” (highlighted emphasis via The Beacon)
In an interview with Director of Admissions Research and Communications Angie Abel, she took responsibility for publishing the Instagram post after being given permission by leadership in the Admissions office. She was aware prior to her post that a fee would most likely be added to dorm costs.
“Admissions’ social media posts are intended for the eyes of incoming students,” Abel said. “We just try to showcase wonderful things about PBA, even the small inconsequential things.”
She also pointed out students are not itemized for electricity, water and cable when living in on-campus housing, so laundry will follow suit.
“Let’s not get nitpicky with the wording of my post,” she said after being questioned about the mention of laundry services being free.
The Beacon also discovered that the Office of Finance, Administration and Planning has been in contact with PBA’s Student Government Association about the laundry service change. Bresnahan said it was the best way to involve students regarding this added cost.
SGA Communications and Marketing Director Austin Parenti told The Beacon he saw the Admissions office Instagram post promoting “free laundry” services starting in the fall. While he made no comments about it, Parenti said SGA would certainly not use such a term.
“I’m guessing Mark Bresnahan wouldn’t want us to say it’s free, because the university is certainly not trying to hide the fact that there is a cost behind it,” Parenti said. “We will try our best to make it clear that it is not free.”
Parenti added that through the SGA Executive Team, members spoke to their friends about whether or not the all-inclusive laundry service would be enticing to students. While nothing formal was ever conducted, like a SGA open meeting or polling, executive board members decided this move would be welcomed based on conversations with their friends.
“We felt it would take stress off of students because it will be one less thing to worry about,” Parenti said. “Students will no longer be searching for quarters.”
Parenti also runs the social media pages for student government. When asked if he would soon post any content regarding all-inclusive laundry on campus, Parenti stressed that SGA would be careful in their wording, being sure to tell the whole story behind the laundry concept.
It remains undetermined whether students will need to swipe their PBA IDs in order to use a machine next year. Bresnahan is in the process of researching what other universities’ procedures are. Coin operated machines, such as those in Coastal Towers, will most likely be set to “free” according to Bresnahan. Samaritan Gardens can expect laundry services to remain consistent with the current circumstances.