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The Antelope

The Antelope

By the numbers

Elliot Gonnella
By Elliot Gonnella

Who gets the better deal when it comes to the meals?

Another semester, another policy that the university unveiled over an extended break. This one deals with a favorite substance of mine, not caffeine or the occasional nicotine, but food.

I enjoy food, as my waistline can attest, but I also enjoyed the access plan the University had for my first three semesters. It was a simple way I could enjoy three meals a day, maybe two if I had to work the evening shift, but I never was hungry or had to worry about what to cook.

The options became repetitive occasionally, but it was hot, edible and tasted fairly good. I felt like I was using my $2,181 per semester well.

But, when I came back from winter break and saw the email, an instant red flag was raised when I saw the phrase “We’re happy to inform you about an exciting new change to your meal plan, effective now!” Nothing good ever comes with an opening phrase like that.
“I took that as a challenge, and if you don’t like to see math, skip the next few paragraphs.”

The change from the unlimited plan to the new meal plan includes more “dining dollars” and something called block meals,  which means a swipe of the card no matter if it is a full meal or a cookie.

I’m not against change, but there seemed to be something off about this. I clicked on a few links to reach the main page to get some more information and to figure out what my new plan would get me for the same price.  How many meals would I be getting for the same amount of money to last me the whole semester?

Eleven bloody meals a week! That is the number of meals I get if I want to make sure this lasts me the rest of the semester. Including both the block meals and dining dollars, I only get 11 meals a week? Heck, this barely covers breakfast and dinner for the school days!

So I filled out the form and switched back to the unlimited plan, one less thing to worry about this spring semester. Looking over the official page I came across this gem in the tab to change plans, “However, you are already on the plan with more freedom and flexibility. It’s the better deal so why change?” I took that as a challenge, and if you don’t like to see math, skip the next few paragraphs.
“It’s the better deal so why change?”

I used the following formula: Weeks in a semester where the dining services are in operation (x) times the number of meals eaten a week (y) equals the number of meals eaten in a semester (z) or x*y=z. Then, take the price of your current meal plan (a) and divide it by z to get the price per meal (p) or a/z=p.

Say I eat at Louie’s for 16 weeks, and for the sake of argument under the unlimited plan, I eat a solid 20 times a week. Multiply those together, I get 320 meals over the course of a semester. The price for my plan per semester was the previously mentioned $2,181. Divide that by the 320 and it comes out rounded to $6.82 a swipe of the card. I never ate at any of the restaurants in the Union, so I don’t need to worry about those points. For all you care to eat, almost $7 a card swipe is a phenomenal deal.

Now on to the new plan, still the lowest price option. Eleven times 16 gets me a grand total of 177 meals for the semester. So taking the total per semester, $2,181, and dividing that by 177 rounding up the last cent, you get $12.33 per plate, a total of $5.51 difference between the two plans… and the latter is the better plan in their eyes.

It is, I won’t deny that, but not for the students.

Why pay the same for less? And this isn’t a small amount of money either, but it really adds up over time and doesn’t make sense. Even if you are a commuter student, why purchase a meal plan that, quite frankly, is a rip -off? You eat at The Lantern or Rustic Range a lot? Pay for it with your own money; it is a lot cheaper than paying for a meal plan.

Even on the larger plans, the cost doesn’t add up to the gains of the student. The gold plan gets you 15 meals a week for $2,294 a semester. Using my formulas stated above, the price per plate is $10.43 with that plan. The largest plan, the Loper plan, which has 20 meals a week for $2,340 gets you about $7.32 per card swipe. Even at the lowest All Access meal plan, I am still getting a better deal than if I paid an extra $159 a semester. Heck, three swipes for $12.33 means a few gallons of milk, eggs, meat, vegetables and fruit that will last a lot longer than a single day living off-campus.

This is the reason many live off-campus as soon as they can. As much as I enjoy the hospitality, fast wireless internet and my fraternity’s house, it doesn’t make sense to spend almost $10,000 a year for housing and 11 meals per week a semester. If there were better options or the same options at a lower cost, I would be more inclined to stay on-campus. However, in order to avoid taking on extensive debt, I will be looking for a place off-campus and that decision was pushed forward by this change without forewarning.

“ So I ask the university, who is the better deal really for?”

The new meal plans aren’t more flexible and they cost more and at the end of the day. You are probably going to get less than what you originally thought. So I ask the university, who is the better deal really for?

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