Dear First Year Student,
The account balance on your OneCard is currently alarmingly high and we regret to inform you that unless you begin eating a Michael Phelps-esque 12,000-calorie-a-day-diet, we will be stealing a significant portion of your money at the end of the winter semester. Perhaps you should have considered changing your meal plan before the last business day in September.
The OneCard Office
The process of applying to university sparks a chain reaction of confusing, fast-paced and often impulsive decisions. Meal plan selection provides another set of options for first-year students that can lead to dire financial consequences. There is a limited amount of money that can be transferred to the following year and students who have not spent enough on their meal plan simply lose any excess funds. What we’re dealing with is legitimized theft. The just decision would be to eliminate the set limit on carry-over money, but barring that, students should be given a longer time span to adjust their meal plan type.
Light, medium or hearty are the selections presented to the majority of students who choose to live in a dormitory style residence. Merely considering the language, light seems to imply that you do not eat a substantial amount, while hearty, on the other hand, calls to mind images of bulky football players throwing down bowls of Campbell’s Chunky Chili.
And so, following the logic of nursery rhyme star Goldilocks, by process of elimination the medium plan must be “just right.” But despite eating a healthy several meals a day plus snacks, I find myself opening my inbox to find chastising reminders to spend more. No other options are provided.
Now let’s look at the numbers. The meal plan selector prompts you to determine your level of eating based on three square meals per day: $15, $25 or $33 a day? Without knowing prices of Dining Hall foods or even your schedule, the decision is entirely arbitrary. It may be difficult to understand how it could be possible to under spend with the inflated cost of on-campus food services.
However, some students travel home more than anticipated, tire of the limited selection or wish to experience some of the local food culture. But in order to spend, spend and spend some more on my OneCard, I feel I can’t even buy any groceries or I risk losing a greater amount of money. And let’s be honest, it’s difficult to eat a healthy diet relying simply on cafeteria food.
The highly limited period for switching your meal plan is also problematic, as the cut-off follows only two weeks of school. Yet, it was not until the Nov. 16 email that students were informed they were under spending.
An extension of the September deadline to the end of the first semester would give students a reasonable chance to determine the extent to which they will utilize a meal plan.
Additionally, the fine print reveals that only $500 can be carried over to the following year. Squint a little harder and you see that this amount is only valid until the end of the fall semester.
Students are also prohibited from transferring funds to their limited convenience fund, so extra money cannot go toward next year’s textbooks, but only to waste. Particularly for students who are funding their university career without parental assistance, this is a crushing waste of their hard-earned savings. It is, quite simply, theft.
As a person who stands to lose money at the end of the year and sees many others facing the same problem, it’s extremely frustrating to see many hours of hard work vanquished with the click of a button. The solution is evident. Eliminate inexpensive foods like salad, and bagels and replace them with more appearances by the king of expenses (and fat): the twenty-dollar prime rib meal. Students, loosen your belts and open your wallets; we’ll eat through our money, one pound at a time.