The Ohio State Undergraduate Student Government’s Dining Task Force released a report that is raising concerns, such as the transparency and cost of the university’s meal plan.
Complexity, affordability and student health were among the biggest areas of trepidation outlined in the report, which was released Jan. 13.
“Students were starting to notice that the value of their plan was not being fulfilled,” said Annie Greer, a third-year in computer science engineering and director of Student Affairs and chair of the Dining Task Force. “The lack of transparency of all costs was really bothering students.”
The report covered the process of gathering student opinions and the main concerns of students, as well as solutions to these concerns.
The task force worked with the Residence Hall Advisory Council to conduct discussions with students about their concerns with Dining Services.
From there, the Dining Task Force created and released a survey that resulted in 864 student responses about the meal plan.
The survey found that 51.3 percent of these respondents felt that they were not getting their money’s worth with their current meal plan. The report cited a lack of understanding in how to use the meal plan.
“The biggest issue is that students need to know how much they are spending,” said Daniel Marchese, a fifth-year in computer science engineering and West Campus senator and member of the Dining Task Force.
Marchese said the administrative fees used to pay employees and operate the dining halls that were not seen upfront contributed immensely to a lack of transparency.
“The problem is that you are betting on students not using their meal plan. The way the plan is structured now, the administrative fees come from the money that you don’t spend,” he said.
In addition to the issues with administrative fees and with students not understanding how to use their plan, the loss of money from unused visits was also a concern. As the unused traditions visits do not roll over, the report found that between week one and 10 of this past semester, students lost a combined $1.72 million.
“I think there is some feeling among students that the university is taking advantage of them,” Greer said. “We just want the description of the meal plan online to be clear about what you are getting.”
Dave Isaacs, a spokesman for the Office of Student Life, said in an email that the university is still in the process of evaluating dining plan options for the next year.
“We have met regularly with USG representatives, and their input, along with the input of a number of students and student organizations, including the Residence Hall Advisory Council, is very important in informing the decision making process,” Isaacs said.
Along with the increase of transparency of costs, Greer explained the long-term hope of establishing a declining balance meal-plan structure outlined in the report, which would allow for all credit for dining to be given upfront.
“The declining balance option would work similarly to a debit card,” Greer said.
The USG Resolution to Support the Replacement of the Current Meal Plan passed 42-aye, 2-nay on Jan. 13.
As far as immediate solutions are concerned, the report suggests the use of rollover for Traditions location visits, increasing discounts and the transparency of what meal plans are partial.
The next step in the process is for USG to bring a proposal before University Senate.