Second-years set to lose meal plan money

On Dec. 31, the $500 balance that second-year Laurier students could carry forward as part of their mandatory meal plan will expire. While in previous years the money that remained on a student’s OneCard after their first year was transferred into a convenience account, the meal plan has been tailored due to food service’s extensive profit losses.

“What we’re striving for is that our food service operations will operate as a break-even business. We’re not trying to be profit focused at all, but we’re trying to offer a break-even operation, and we’ve been challenged to do that in the past,” said director of student services Dan Dawson.

“These initiatives on meal plans are one component of our overall strategy on how to achieve that.”

Dawson further explained that the majority of students will not be losing money as “three quarters of the money that was in that carry-forward pool has been spent already this fall.”
Second-year French student Jasmin Thurston explained that a number of her friends are frustrated in having to spend the additional money. “They’re stuck this year trying to spend $1,000 when they could spend the money on groceries and make better food,” Thurston continued.

“We take money out of our account, put it on that card, so why should that money get taken away from us if we put it on there?” she questioned.

Dawson stated that Student Services has been doing whatever possible to ensure that students would spend their remaining OneCard dollars in the given time frame.

Students were sent monthly e-mails to remind them of the upcoming no rollover deadline, and changes were also made to the OneCard’s prime and alternative accounts.

Prime dollars can currently be used at some on-campus coffee outlets such as Tim Horton’s, Second Cup and the Library Café.

Also, prime and alternative accounts have, for a limited time, been combined. This combined account applies only to the carry-forward account.

“We actually made that more flexible for students and just created this single account called the On Campus Tax Food Account, so students are allowed to use that money in that fall semester anywhere where food is available on campus,” said Dawson.

According to Dawson, Laurier is the only university in Canada that allows students to carry over money from their mandatory meal plan.

“It could be perceived that we were taking something away from our own students; we’re still offering something that is better than what you can get at other institutions,” he said.
Dawson stated that the changes to the meal plan policy are at the core of creating a more functional and efficient food service division at Laurier.

Re-organizing the financial business plan will allow for equipment renewal, facility upgrades and changes in staffing and hours of operation.

“The meal plan is one piece of the puzzle, by no means do we expect that these changes to the meal plan are going to be the single resolution to solving our financial difficulties, but it’s definitely a key piece of the puzzle because the meal plan program is the one that we build most of our service around.”

Despite this, second-year student Michelle Choong explains that she is unhappy with the carry-forward change. “We’re already paying thousands of dollars a year; we don’t need to give them any more money than we already do…. We paid for it, so why does it expire?”

Dawson explains that the changes to the carry-forward policy are not indefinite and that the meal plan program is constantly evolving.

“We’re trying continually to the make the program as customer friendly as possible, while balancing the needs of making the business viable,” said Dawson.

“We think that what we have is still a lot more flexible and a lot more generous than a lot of universities provide, yet at the same time we’re trying to put a balanced program together to be able to cover all of our overhead as well. It’s a work in progress.”