It’s no wonder new UNK students worry about the “freshman 15.” With as many times as students are forced to eat on their meal plans each week, gaining 15 pounds can be easy. And if they don’t gain, they’ll probably lose–lose money that is.
For UNK students that purchased a meal plan this year, two choices were available: 21 meals per week or 15 meals per week. Each plan includes $80 in points that are also used to purchase food. Each plan has a price tag of over $1800 a semester. If students were able to eat every breakfast, lunch and dinner that they are paying for, the price would seem like a great deal. In fact, it equals out to be $5 per feeding for a 21 meal plan. Unfortunately, scarfing down each meal before it expires is not possible for some students. If a student is able to only get 2 meals in during the weekdays and one of the weekend, they are wasting around $800 a semester. That’s $800 that could go toward books, gas or loan payments.
But why is is so hard for students to consume their required number of chow times? Lack of flexibility. The hours of transferability for meal plans are outrageous. For example, lunch is offered Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that most people don’t continue to eat lunch until 5 o’clock in the evening. If students get hungry during those six “lunch” hours they’re just out of luck if they want to use their plan. Then there’s the weekend. One measly hour is designated for dinner. So don’t hungry before 5 p.m. or after 6 p.m. because there’s no food for you.
If UNK removed the meals per week program, students wouldn’t have to strain every single meal of every single day. With class, work, homework, extracurricular activities and friends entered into the equation, meals should not have to be a person’s number one priority.
For a student that lives in the apartment-style housing on campus the meal plans are likely to seem even more redundant. Those living in a four bedroom apartment in the Antelope/Nester complex are paying up to $860 more a year than other buildings on campus, in part because of the almost fully-equipped kitchen in each room. They do not have stoves but there are multiple stoves per building and those with electric skillets, convection ovens, and hot plates find that they are able to cook their own meals daily in their own room. Why equip these students with their own kitchens if they are still required to eat as many meals on campus as students without kitchens?
UNK should look to other universities and construct a new plan that offers convenience and value. The University of San Diego is a great example. USD offers multiple plans in a block structure that allows students to purchase a set amount of meals for the semester and then use them when it’s most convenient. North Georgia College and State University has a meal plan that gives students unlimited access to the dining hall. Either of these programs would offer better meal options than UNK.
If UNK is going to stay with the overpriced, inconvenient meal plans, students should at least be given the opportunity to figure out what works best for them. Take Tennesse Tech University. There, students are allowed to choose a meal plan and change after two weeks if they feel another plan might fit their needs better.
With a five percent increase scheduled to occur next year in room and board rates, UNK needs to greatly redesign how its students get their grub, with an emphasis on convenience and value. As of now, students are not getting the best bagel for their buck.