Ohio State takes swipe at new student meal plan
Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Updated: Friday, June 15, 2012 23:06
With the semester conversion about four months away, University Residences and Dining Services is planning for the coming change.
URDS has planned the student meal plan conversion, which adjusts for the longer terms, and does away with the swipe system in place, creating a new block system to be implemented following the semester conversion.
The block plan will be similar to the model in place at Sloopy's Diner at the Ohio Union.
"There will be a dollar value assigned to items, regular menu prices instead of the stars and numbers used now," said Zia Ahmed, senior director of Dining Services.
Ahmed said the change was made based on feedback from a committee comprised of students who live on campus and use a meal plan.
Blocks are planned to be a better value for students. Ahmed said students pay about $10.20 per swipe, and next year, they will pay about $8.50 for every two blocks, the equivalent to one on-campus meal, meaning students should save about $1.70 per purchased meal.
Some students are pleased about the change, even if they aren't planning on getting a meal plan next year.
"The more money you save the better. I'm moving off campus so it won't really affect me, but for the incoming freshmen it'll be a better deal," said Kim Hullings, a second-year in accounting.
The roughly $4 spending value of a block should also save students money, because smaller purchases will cost only one block, instead of the equivalent of a whole meal.
"Blocks will give students more grazing options, they can get a coffee and a muffin without having to give up your whole meal," Ahmed said.
Some students said they like this feature of the new meal plan.
"It sounds like a cool idea. A lot of times I wake up late and I'll grab a coffee or breakfast on my way to class," said Tiffany Herndon, a second-year in human development and family sciences.
Herndon said she doesn't think she is getting a good value when she swipes for small items.
"It comes to the point where I would rather use my swipes for little things … even when I'm not terribly hungry, than ending the quarter with a ton of extra unused swipes," Herndon said.
Under the swipe system, students have more options for the number of swipes they could purchase per quarter than they will during the first year on semesters. Students will only be able to purchase 450 blocks, priced at $2,175 per semester, or 600 blocks, priced at $2,550 per semester, but Ahmed said he expects this to be adjusted in the future.
"After first-year data we will have the flexibility to tweak the plan, generated by feedback," Ahmed said.
Intermediate plans are likely to be added in the coming years.
A traditional meal plan, priced at $1,850 per semester, will also be available, which provides students with three meals per weekday and two on weekend days at Traditions dining locations, along with additional blocks that can be used at other campus dining locations. However, for the first time, an unlimited plan is going to be available.
"An unlimited plan provides access to all traditional dining, for the heavy-user," Ahmed said.
This plan will cost students $2,650 per semester.
Similar to the traditional plan, the unlimited plan only allows users access to traditions dining, aside from 10 blocks to be used at other campus dining locations every week.
A new commuter plan will also be available, giving students living off campus the opportunity to purchase 80 or 160 blocks for the semester. Ahmed said he expects the money-saving value of the blocks to be more attractive to off-campus students compared to the current commuter plan.
"People say they would be better off paying cash with the old plan, so the smaller blocks will be a better option for them," Ahmed said.
The new plan also includes an additional feature to accommodate students who move between campuses.
"The blocks can be used at regional and the Columbus branch, for students who travel and take classes at both, which isn't possible on the current plan," Ahmed said.
Among the other changes, Dining Services is adjusting their policies for students living on campus who don't want to purchase a meal plan at all, evaluating them on a case-by-case basis, to access Dining Services ability to accommodate students with special circumstances.
For students with "very specific dietary needs that we can't accommodate, you have to pay a facility fee. Next year, we're going to give them the option of an off-campus meal plan or pay a significantly less fee," Ahmed said.
Ahmed said students who are selected to be exempt from the meal plan can either purchase a commuter plan, pay no fee or decide not to purchase any meal plan and pay a $100 processing fee to URHS. The department is getting rid of the $525 facility fee that students had to pay if they wanted to opt out of purchasing any meal plan.
Students who do not qualify for the dietary exception must still purchase a meal plan.
Some students think that regardless of dietary needs, upperclassmen shouldn't have to be subjected to a required meal plan.
"It makes sense for freshmen, but you shouldn't force it on sophomores and juniors. If you're older and can eat by yourself, you shouldn't force people to do it," said Dan Goudie, a third-year in electrical engineering.
No fee is administered to students living in apartment-style on-campus housing, which is considered to be buildings where residents have their own kitchen.
While there is a cost associated with the block conversion, the exact cost cannot be determined at this time.
"It's hard to put a dollar number on it until we go through the changes," Ahmed said. "It would be wrong for me to say there is no cost, but it would be hard to put an amount on it."