Amid many other changes being made to campus and college living in general, SIUE will be incorporating new meal plan options for students — both in terms of variety and value.
In the past, the university only offered two options for a meal plan, Plan A and B, with all students living in freshman residential housing being required to choose one of these options. For the 2020-21 academic year, SIUE has added a third option to the mix.
Some students previously enjoyed the upgrade from Plan A; but, found that Plan B was a bit excessive. In response, the university created a revised Plan B as the middle ground to Plan A and the newly introduced Plan C which will effectively replace Plan B in terms of cost.
The meal plans offered come at various rates; Plan A at $1,780 per semester, Plan B at $2,120 per semester and Plan C at $2,460 per semester.
For students who no longer wish to use a meal plan, Cougar Bucks plans are a possible alternative, coming in at $100, $250 or $500 per semester.
Although these changes are welcomed and deemed necessary by many, some students are still unsure of how the meal plans work.
On campus, the meal plans run according to a 60/40 structure, in which 60 percent of the payment goes directly to covering the cost of labor, supplies, maintenance and utilities through Dining Services.
Once these costs are taken into account, the remaining 40 percent is added to the student’s account. In the end, the disposable income available to students amounts to $712 for Plan A, $848 for Plan B and $984 for Plan C per semester.
In order to retain the value for money trade-off, all food items are discounted by 60 percent. Therefore, every food item purchased on campus will be purchased at 40 percent of its original cost.
Freshman elementary education major Nicole Obert, of Quincy, Illinois, isn’t bothered by the current structure of the meal plans and believes the 60 percent discount makes it worthwhile.
“I think [the 60/40 structure] is fine. It’s just like when you’re getting [the money added to the account], you don’t even think about [the 60 percent taken out],” Obert said. “You just see that nice discount.”
For those less concerned about operating costs, some students applaud the plans for their convenience. Freshman undeclared major Andrew Sorenson, of Springfield, Illinois, takes full advantage of the student benefits associated with the plans.
“I like having it,” Sorenson said. “I mean, obviously I’m going to have to pay all the money back eventually anyways. But it’s nice getting to come here and get good food for what is essentially cheaper than I normally would without the meal plan.”
While some restaurants off campus offer discounts to students or accept Cougar Bucks as an alternative form of payment, the cost is largely retained by the students, according to Christy McDougal, accountant for the Morris University Center Business Office.
“If a student made a decision to want to go off campus with friends or go home, they still recoup the cost of the food,” McDougal said. “Dining Services was able to keep the 60 percent because they were here, they prepared the food, they had the food waiting for the student and they had the labor.”
Some students find themselves frustrated with the meal plan when making decisions to eat on or off campus during the school year. Once the meal plans are in full effect, after the 60 percent has already been applied to Dining Services’ operating costs, some students feel pressured to constantly use their meal plan in order to maximize its benefits.
Freshman German major Ethan Anderson, of Springfield, Illinois, said the meal plan might not be the right fit for all students.
“It’s nice thinking you get a discount, of course, but when you don’t actually get the discount, we have to pay all the extra money up front and take out extra loans,” Anderson said. “That’s not really a good thing.”
While the discount is guaranteed for all students who have opted in for a meal plan, extra food expenses may still be incurred by the students if they choose to eat off campus.
Any money which is not used by the student during the fall semester will rollover to the spring semester. If money still goes unused, the student will be issued a refund with their remaining balance.
However, it is notable that the money returned will not account for the 60 percent taken off at the beginning of the semester for the cost of labor and supplies.
For students receiving the Meridian Scholarship, which covers the cost of a meal plan for all semesters in which the student lives in University Housing, refunds will not be granted following the spring semester.
For more information about student dining options, visit Dining Services’ website.