Last year, SGA’s Shout Week aimed to poll suggestions for improvements or changes around campus. A limited meal plan was the hottest topic among students, former SGA Treasurer Brittany Arnold remarked in an interview with Food Services. This comes as no surprise — dining halls are the most convenient places to eat between classes, especially for students who live a twenty-minute drive away from campus.
This year, our dreams have come true: Food Services created a commuter meal plan that allows for either 80 or 65 meals and 665, 255, or 300 ‘Paw Points’. Each Paw Point is the equivalent of $1 at vending machines and Food Services vendors like the Bulldog Café at Tate.
The commuter meal plan is a great idea, but at what cost? The following calculations posit that the plan is designed to provide lunch for commuters. Here is the net dollar benefit from purchasing the commuter meal plan (80 meals plus 665 Paw Points) versus paying for individual lunches.
80 lunches (with 10% student discount and sales tax) + Paw Points = ($9.42 x 80) + 665 = $1418.60
Meal plan (single semester) = $1401
Commuter meal plan (single semester) — Meal plan (single semester) = $1418.30 — $1401 = $17.30
Net benefit = $17.30
It seems more cost effective to buy lunch or breakfast every time you normally would and save money that way. On the commuter meal plan, if you were to eat breakfast once a week for the semester you would not be getting your money’s worth by any means.
The second commuter plan option, with 80 meals and 255 Paw Points, yields the same net benefit. Likewise, the plan featuring 65 meals and 300 Paw Points only benefits you $14.06. And that’s not even including breakfast prices, which are a whole dollar or two cheaper and a popular time for commuter meal plan customers.
It’s important to note that the Paw Points are tax-free and do roll over to the next semester if you do not use all of them. Are there other incentives to purchase the plan? It is certainly much easier to ask the cashier to swipe your student ID card when you enter Bolton than to have to fumble through your wallet for cash. Furthermore, often students are not even purchasing their meal plans themselves — it is simpler if a parent can prepay.
But some students, like senior Nick Oshinski, were curious enough to do the calculations themselves. He said, “We were on the fence, but we did the math and decided that it wasn’t worth it.”
On the other hand, some consider the plan a good alternative to commuting. THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE’s own Connor Kitchings said, “I’ve found the commuter plan very convenient. If I only have an hour or two to eat between classes, I prefer staying on campus.”
To conclude, it’s up to consumers to decide whether or not the commuter meal plan is worth it. 2015 marks only the first year of the program. In coming years, Food Services may make some improvements to an already solid idea.
— Nick Geeslin is a sophomore studying journalism
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