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. Both plans have a price tag of over $1,800 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. If only it were that simple.
Each meal has an assigned time period that it has to be used during or else it expires. A 21 meal plan allows for each meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for every day of the week. Unfortunately, scarfing down each meal before it expires is not possible for some students. College life is typically pretty busy. Not everybody is available for every meal of every day and that means wasted money. If a student is able to only get 2 meals in during the weekdays and one on the weekend, they are wasting around $800 a semester. That’s $800 that could go toward books, gas or loan payments. It’s a shame that students are wasting so much money because of their hectic lives. Instead of losing all of the unused meals, why not give partial credit for them toward the next semester’s meal plan? That would give students even more incentive to continue to buy meal plans.
But why is it so hard for students to consume their required number of chow times? Lack of flexibility. The hours that meals are allowed to be used are restrictive and don’t account for students that have unconventional meal times. For example, lunch is offered on weekdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. If students get hungry during those seven “lunch” hours they’re just out of luck if they want to use their plan more than once. Somebody who eats an early lunch and dinner are left to find food elsewhere because only one meal can be used during those hours. Then there’s the weekend. One measly hour is designated for dinner. So don’t get hungry before 5 p.m. or after 6 p.m. because there’s no food for you.
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.