University Meal Plans are required but does this mean they actually get used?
University of Utah students pay thousands of dollars every year for a service that isn’t utilized.
By Hunter Wallin
A common complaint among future and current University of Utah students are the required meal plans while living in student housing on campus. According to the University of Utah’s Housing and Dining website, these required meal plans can cost up to nearly $4,800 dollars a year on top of rent and other living costs. Despite paying roughly $19 per day throughout the school year, some students rarely, if ever, use the food provided on campus. This has many people asking why the meal plans are required and where the money from these unused meal plans is going?
REQUIRED MEAL PLANS-
Required meal plans for students living on campus are common at US universities. At the University of Utah nearly all on campus housing options available to students require a meal plan. There are also meal plans available to students living off campus. A campus meal plan ranges from $1714 a year to nearly $4800 a year. There is a large difference in options, from the amount of meals, and availability of the meals between these two plans. For example the meal plan that costs $1714 a year is only available to people living in certain housing units and only receive a total of 40 meals per semester while the $4800 option is available to most everyone and offers 21 meals per week.
WHY ARE THEY REQUIRED-
According to an article from NBC News some universities require meal plan subscriptions of all students, even those not living on or near campus where they would even be able to use the plan. According to their website the University of Utah’s intent is to help students who already have enough to worry about with school and work. One common justification for the requirement by universities is that if enough people buy the food the cost of food comes down, simple economics. It makes food affordable for everyone but requiring that cost can be unfair to students who would otherwise choose not to eat on campus.
IS IT SCARING AWAY FUTURE STUDENTS?
Max Jarman is an honor roll student and soon-to-be high school graduate. He has been looking into continuing his education by applying for his first fall semester at the University of Utah, and has saved enough money to pay for his first semester for tuition and rent. He was shocked and disappointed to hear about the meal plan requirement. “Why do they assume I want to eat on campus,” he said. Max also mentioned how he felt that they are trying to take too much control over students. For Max and many other upcoming students, this rule may cause people to avoid living on campus, furthering the University of Utah’s commuter school feel.
DO STUDENTS ACTUALLY USE THEM?
Wilson Webster, a pre engineering student, lived on campus his first year and had a mid-level meal plan. “When I was first starting school it was nice to have,” he said. He claimed that it was at first an easy way to make sure he stayed fed and had a consistent place to live. As the semester went on though the year, he fell away from using it as much. Once he started a job working evenings, he realized that it was easier to grab something quick rather than making the trip to one of he dining areas. Webster estimates he used about half of the allotted meals throughout the semester.
Courtney Ruttan, another student attending the U of U stated she rarely used her meal plan when living on campus. Courtney was fortunate enough to have financial help from her parents. “It was like they threw $3000 out the window. I would rather make my own food or grab something on the way home then eat in the dining area.,” she said.
IS THE UNIVERISTY MAKING MONEY ON UNUSED MEAL PLANS?
There is an apparent idea that the University is making money on people‘s meal plans. Via email we spoke to a representative from the University dining services, they claimed the opposite to be true. They claimed that Diner Services on campus simply charges students enough money to keep the service running and to improve upon infrastructure for student dining. Along with this, they noted that all food that isn’t purchased with student meal plans is donated to a local shelter and the campus food pantry by the university. They do this through a partnership with the Recovery Food Network, a student run organization on campus.
If you are a current student, upcoming student, or parent and have any other questions about meal plans at the U you can visit their homepage at https://housing.utah.edu/dining/ or send an email to Dining@utah.edu.
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