Feb 262002

Think what you could do with $533.98 – that’s the average amount CSU students are overspending on meal plans per semester.

CSU’s residence hall meal plans are currently available in three blocks. The Block A plan, which costs $1,536, provides 336 meals per semester; the block B plan offers 240 meals and is the most popular; and the block C plan offers 160 meals.

During the fall 2001 semester, students used an average of only 61 percent of their meals they paid for, according to Housing and Food Services data.

Many students are deservedly frustrated with the current dining system at CSU, and although Housing and Food Services has made several changes recently to improve the system, there is plenty that still needs to be done.

Some of the recent changes made by the food services include extended dining hours, semester-long instead of week-long meal allowances, guest passes, late night meals and the option of eating in the Lory Student Center cafeteria – all steps in the right direction. But the problem still exists when students are continually overpaying for a product – the quality of which is also questionable – that they are not getting their money’s worth for one reason or another.

The profit made from the meal plans pays for utilities, staff, operating and food costs, and maintenance of the residence halls, with some also going into the universities general fund, which makes sense. But the fact is that students often feel misled when purchasing the plans.

“I think the residence halls should swipe your card every time you eat and charge you at the end of the semester,” said meal plan user Stephanie Francois.

Not a bad idea, but because of price breaks available from using the current pay-up-front system, it is not an option, according to James Dolack, executive director of Housing and Food Services.

“Our current system is like renting a hotel,” he said. “It is cheaper when you rent for a longer period of time than on a nightly basis.”

One intriguing idea proposed by food services would be developing “flex dollars.” This system would allow students to use their fixed amount of money to spend at any place on campus that accepts their cards.

As the university’s meal plan system attempts to improve, and as students continue to complain about the service, communication should become the focus of Housing and Food Services. The available meal plans should be better explained to incoming freshman and other students, using more specific examples to demonstrate the realistic necessity of each plan.

Students also need to accept more responsibility and become more aware of exactly what they are buying when they purchase a plan, reading the fine print and using word-of-mouth to estimate which plan would work best for them.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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