By Clare Myers
Students are expressing concerns over the price of the meal plans that will be available to residents next year, all of which cost more than the most expensive option offered this semester.
The lowest-priced meal plan that on-campus residents will be able to purchase next year is over $1,000 more per semester than the lowest-priced meal plan currently available.
While commuters can still purchase block meal plans, all meal plans available to campus residents will be all access plans. The “7 Meal” plan that is currently available will no longer be offered. Many students have responded negatively to these changes.
“It’s ridiculous. A lot of us have different dietary needs or our own food supplies,” sophomore Quincy Golston said. “We shouldn’t be forced to pay an exorbitant amount of money for a meal plan that we don’t want.”
Kyle Wilson, director of dining services at the University of Dallas, said that all access plans allow students to eat at the cafeteria without worrying about counting meals.
“It really takes the monetary value away from that ‘per swipe,’” he said.
Several students said they were worried about the cost of the all access plans. The “All Access PLUS” plan, which all freshmen and sophomores living in the dorms will be required to purchase, is $2,425 per semester, according to the university website. The plan includes unlimited access to the cafeteria and $200 in declining balance. The “All Access PREMIUM” plan, which is available to all students, comes with $300 in declining balance and costs $2,533 per semester. Juniors, seniors, apartment residents and commuters can purchase an “All Access” plan with just $100 in declining balance for $2,317.
By contrast, the current “7 Meal” plan is $1,280 per semester.
“The ‘7 Meal’ plan saves students a lot of money,” junior Brendan Luke said.
She said the extra burden could prevent some students from going to Rome.
“Budgets are already tight,” Lataif said. “Something that seems little, like increasing the price of the meal plan, could be a stumbling block for students who want to go to Rome who are already struggling to do that financially.”
“I doubt the university would do anything that we thought would not be manageable to the students,” Dore Madere, director of Student Life, said.
Mark “Patrick” Daly, associate vice president for administration, said that anyone who is concerned about financial difficulties for any reason can speak to the Office of Financial Aid.
According to Taryn Anderson, director of Financial Aid, meal costs of $2,425 are calculated into the cost of attendance.
“When we determine a student’s need we take into account the Cost of Attendance and their Family Contribution from the FAFSA,” she wrote in an emailed statement. “We then award students as much aid as we are able to help fill the gap.”
Wilson said that the move to the all access requirement is part of a larger trend in colleges across the country. He said that all access plans benefit students.
In response to questions of whether Aramark’s own financial situation was a factor in the decision to remove the lower-priced meal plan option, Wilson only said that Aramark is a partner with the university.
“We are here for the university and the students,” he said. “So what the university is wanting for their community and for their university, that’s what we put into place.”
Both Madere and Wilson said that they had received feedback from students who were running out of meals or declining balance, although they were not able to provide estimates of how many students gave this feedback.
“There needed to be more than the ‘7,’” she said. “I think this year showed that the ‘7’ was not enough.” She pointed out that the West Hall does not have a kitchen, and students who live there do not have somewhere to prepare food.
“[We wanted to] make it possible for students in the traditional halls, in West Hall, to always be certain and for their parents always to be certain that they would be able to eat whenever they needed to, always have a good nutritional plan,” Daly said.
Many students disagreed with the statement that the dining options on campus provide good nutrition.
Freshman Sami Haeick has medical issues that prevent her from being able to eat gluten, carbohydrates or sugar. She said she hoped that her medical condition would exempt her from the meal plan requirement, but she — along with all other freshmen on-campus residents this year — was required to purchase an all access plan.
“I rarely go to the caf, but when I do, I usually just have a salad, and hope there’s grilled chicken,” she said.
Haeick said that despite promises from Aramark that there would always be options available to those with dietary restrictions, this is often not the case. She said she eats in the cafeteria infrequently and estimated that she spends $300 per month on food and groceries outside of the meal plan.
Haeick described her experience at dinner last Wednesday just past 7 p.m., about half an hour before the cafeteria closes.
“They say that there’s [sic] always options at the gluten-free section, and the gluten-free was empty,” she said, adding that this was a common occurrence.
According to Wilson and Madere, the cafeteria provides food options for customers with dietary restrictions from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
“Students need to learn to ask for the options,” Madere said. Wilson said that students who have specific concerns could speak to the supervisor on duty.
A number of students have been vocal in expressing their opposition to the meal plan changes. The University News conducted a survey last Thursday at the cafeteria during lunch hours. The survey found that 84 percent of students currently on a meal plan dislike the changes.
A group of students, including Haeick, has created a petition on change.org directed at UD and Aramark. According to the website, the goals are to give students a choice of plans that suit their individual needs, increase the food quality and ensure that food is available at every station when the cafeteria is open. As of press time, the petition had 497 signatures.
Daly said that the university provides several ways for students to give feedback, including the Dining Services Advisory Committee, the “Napkin Notes” board and periodic surveys.
Lataif called a recent meeting of the committee “completely unproductive.”
“For an hour, students told Kyle that there’s not food out during regular mealtimes and that that they’ve been told the grill is closed multiple times throughout the day, and for an hour he contradicted that,” she said.
In an interview, Wilson defended what the cafeteria offers, saying that a variety of food is available from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and that the grill is always open during those hours.
Lataif said that she hopes the change.org petition will make students’ voices heard.
“We just want the administration to know that students are really upset about the new changes,” she said.