NIU dorm rooms either undervalued or overpriced, group says
Northern Illinois University (NIU) is charging students approximately four times what it believes to be the fair market value of its campus dorm rooms, according to a W2 filed on behalf of an affiliate employee, a citizens oversight group reported recently.
The Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) said on their Illinois Leaks website that either the university is under-reporting the fair market value of its dorm rooms to the IRS or significantly overcharging students. The ECW unearthed the discrepancy while looking into tax reporting on Ken Wilson, an NIU affiliate employee in 2014.
Wilson’s taxes did not reflect the costs housing him in NIU’s Grant dorms, which under IRS rules should be included in his taxable compensation as a fringe benefit. NIU had claimed that there was no comparison to use to add the free housing to Wilson’s W2, which the ECW called strange considering that the school charges students $9,782 to live in a similar dorm for two semesters. At a total of nine months, the amount equals approximately $1,000 per month.
Wilson stayed in university housing for 11 months, which should generate an adjusted W2 figure of approximately $11,000, based on what students pay, the ECW said. Instead, NIU’s adjusted W2 showed his compensation only increasing from $145,870.40 to $148,620.40 to cover the cost of the room -- an increase of just $2,750. That equates to a monthly rent of $250, the ECW said.