Undergraduate Student Government President Micah Kamrass wants to save students money using Chipotle as a guideline.
Kamrass wants to change the current meal plan offered to nonresidential students, the Commuter Plus Plan, to be more affordable to students who now survive on groceries or businesses off campus.
“Chipotle is the standard we use,” Kamrass said. “You can get a Chipotle burrito, which is pretty filling, for six, six-and-a-half bucks.”
The commuter plan costs $420 per quarter, and allots students 40 swipes and a $50 BuckID deposit.
That averages out to be $9.25 per swipe, plus the cash.
“If the expectation is going to be for students to continue to eat on-campus, we need to make it closer to the cost of a Chipotle burrito,” Kamrass said.
At Chipotle, a chicken burrito, chips with salsa and a small fountain drink costs $9.55.
“When you factor in a side and a drink, I think our prices are very competitive,” said Zia Ahmed, senior director for Campus Dining Services.
At Burrito Noches on north campus, students can get a chicken burrito, a side of nachos with cheese sauce and a fountain drink for $8.07.
Ahmed agreed with Kamrass that the dining plans need to be changed, but said limiting the price is only part of the game.
“We have to keep all ideas on the table,” Ahmed said. “We are approaching this with a very open mind.”
Kamrass said the university should consider “anything that could help make (the plan) more attractive to off-campus students.”
This could include extending the discount for students who use BuckID money instead of swipes at campus dining locations to off-campus plan holders, Kamrass said.
Currently, students with the off-campus plan are excluded from the discount, which is 35 percent at traditional dining halls, such as Baker and North Commons, and 15 percent at all other dining locations.
Kamrass said the talks are in a very early stage, and there are not yet official details.
“It’s all just been conversation at this point,” Kamrass said.
Other Ohio schools that are still on the quarter system offer more options. Ohio University has two different options of students living off campus and the University of Cincinnati has four.
Karri Benishek, marketing manager for Campus Dining Services, said there have been meetings with student groups and students to figure out how a potential plan would best suit everyone’s needs.
“There are no changes currently to the commuter meal plan,” Benishek said. “There is simply a brainstorming in process for how we might make it more appealing for 2012.”
Ahmed came to Ohio State four months ago from the University of Akron, and said he immediately contacted USG, the Council of Graduate Students and the Residence Halls Advisory Council.
“We put a meal plan committee together of about 12-14 students,” he said. The committee is in charge of gathering feedback from students on improving the meal plans, and is in the process of scheduling its next meetings.
Ahmed said the most popular suggestion he has heard is offering students the choice of using half swipes on things like a coffee and a muffin.
“Whatever we end up doing, it will be a student-driven plan,” Ahmed said.
Jen Bortnem, a second-year in business, plans to live on-campus next year and thinks a cheaper off-campus meal plan would help students.
“It’s more convenient to not have to leave campus for lunch,” she said. “I also think there’s more variety on campus, and it’s a little more nutritious.”
Ahmed said convenience was the biggest benefit for students to purchase the off-campus plan, but attracting more students will mean offering more.
“The plan has to offer some tangible benefit that students can really see,” Ahmed said.
Lukas Brooks didn’t see any benefits from his plan last year.
“I just ended up using it for bagels and stuff,” said Brooks, a third-year in chemical engineering who canceled his off-campus plan after one quarter. “I decided it wasn’t really worth it.”