Changes coming to first-year meal plans

Meeting for the last time of the school year on April 15, the Wilfrid Laurier University Student’s Union board of directors unanimously passed the operating procedures agreement (OPA) between them and the university. The most notable change was the restructuring of the meal plan offered to first-year students.

“That was pretty much the only big thing that changed. But the most exciting thing at the same time, we’re pretty happy with it,” said Chris Walker, director and vice-chair to the board.

Unlike in previous years where prime and alternative meal plan dollars were exclusive to certain establishments, a first-year student who depletes his or her alternative dollars will now be able to use their prime funds to make purchases at WLUSU food centres. WLUSU, in compensation for WLU food services, will pay a 34% commission on any sales made with prime dollars at the Terrace or Wilf’s.

“We wanted first year students to be free to spend their money where they wanted to spend their money,” director Greg Evans told the Cord. “They’re paying the money, and they should they be able to buy food wherever they want on campus.”

In addition, students who will be living in apartment style residences next year will be required to purchase at least the $1200 meal plan offered only to students in that particular style of residence. To continue access to the meal plan operations, WLUSU will also pay $100,000 a year.

According the agreement, however, any funds not used by April 30 of each year will be surrendered to the university.

Kyle Walker, president and CEO of WLUSU, stated that the new changes to the meal plan will greatly benefit the incoming first-year students, especially in terms of leftover money that many first-year students are scrambling to spend at the end of the winter semester.

As well, it erases the fee that is charged when a student transfers funds from their prime account to their alternative account.

When asked about whether WLUSU will fluctuate in profits due to these changes, Walker replied by saying, “Might be a couple thousand here, might be a couple of thousand the other way. The paid 30% on the dollar of any meal transaction, you’re definitely not making a lot of money or if any at all.”

Walker also asserted that WLUSU will not be losing money on this new agreement.

One other change made to the one-card structure is that first-year students will not have any money put into their convenience accounts, which is usually used for printing services and purchases at the C-Spot. While it won’t be eliminated, it’s now up to the student to whether they want to put money into that account.

“It is sort of going back to the core of what a meal plan is,” said director Seth Warren. “Before it was a nice bonus [convenience dollars], I think, to be able to print off your one-card with your meal money. But on the other hand, now people aren’t going to be taking your money from food.”

While stating he was overall pleased with the new agreement and what came out of it, Warren mentioned that the university needs to communicate the new changes to students effectively.

Throughout the year, the agreement was negotiated and reviewed by each party numerous times until each side was comfortable.

“We had goals and the university had goals, it was just a matter of finding a balance that worked for everybody,” said Chris Walker.

If, for any reason, financial distress is occurring to either side of the agreement, the meal plan appendix of the OPA can be reviewed next year.

However, the OPA is still not final, as it must be approved by the board of the governors. But Chris Walker, and many of the other directors on the board, is sure that it’ll be approved.

“At this point we’re pretty hopeful that it’ll go through, we’re fairly optimistic.”

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