Meal plans are unfair to underclassmen

| Staff Columnist

Becky Zhao | Student Life
With my absence over Thanksgiving, I now have 178.15 extra meal points. I am not the only one over the recommended level, nor do I have the largest surplus. With the bounty, I can buy myself cookies with my Subway sandwich, a large coffee instead of a small, or I could have those extra points as real money in my pocket.

While the last option seems the most favorable, my freshman standing makes it impossible, as an incoming freshman cannot sign up for the smallest meal plan. On the surface, it just looks like Wash. U. is trying to give freshmen a cushion in case they go a little overboard with the salads, with the sushi or at Ibby’s. If one digs a little deeper, however, it becomes apparent that Wash. U. freshmen, because of the limitations on their meal plans, are paying nearly all of the overhead that is associated with WUSTL Dining Services.

Wash. U. boasts great food, dining halls and workers. While I have yet to be disappointed in any of these and doubt I ever will be, the quality comes at a price. Freshman are required to purchase the Silver Plan for $1.39 to one meal point ($4,300 for 3,100 meal points). The description of the plan that follows says that it is a plan that will “best meet the needs of those students who eat three meals a day and enjoy an occasional snack.” It also claims to be the most popular meal plan for the returning students. Now, while the first claim may be true, the second falls short. Many of Wash. U.’s students have done the math and realized that the Bronze Plan is the ideal one.

Students who have the Bronze Plan initially pay $1.50 for one meal point. Generally, they eat through that plan by the end and are either mooching off friends, starving, or using campus card (therefore paying one dollar for one meal point). By the time you have used 3,100 points, you pay exactly the same price as those with the Silver plan, with one giant caveat: The students with smaller plans more than likely use all their meal points. Though the points roll over at the end of the term, they don’t at the end of the year, so others in my position are forced to waste money. Sophomores buy the Bronze Plan, and juniors and seniors can have plans that are smaller still, leaving the freshman hung out to dry.

As a student, I understand the need for the inflated prices; they pay for the staff, dishes and supplies. But as a freshman, I do not feel that we should be shouldering most of the extra costs. The food and service we get at Wash. U. is phenomenal. It should not be taken for granted that we do not have to drudge through a buffet line looking at something that might or might not be a piece of meat. Obviously this food and service has to come at a price, but one group of students should not be shafted in order to pay the overhead costs that everyone contributes to.

  • apple

    it’s always going to cost more money to buy a meal plan. if you live on the 40 you are required to buy a sizeable package still. As you add some years here, the requirements slacken up. So, next year when I’m a junior living off campus, I will not be buying a meal plan whatsoever and will instead be using campus card for any purchases. Even more so, buying a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter is still way cheaper per sandwich than anything you can find in BD.

  • Student

    You may be $178.15 over your suggested meal point balance, but the majority of freshmen males ran out of points around Thanksgiving. The Silver Plan is not enough to feed a healthy 18 year old male.

  • Andrea

    Maybe freshmen do pay more of the overhead costs, however, as almost all of us were WashU freshmen at one point, we’ll all graduate having paid our fair share of overhead. Changing the distribution of overhead throughout the plans and years spent here really makes very little difference in the long run.

  • Tyler Merchant

    Class of 2007 here, so not sure if this is still true, but worth a try. When I was at Wash U, adding more points later in the year cost only $1 per point, even though meal plans were around $1.33 per point, so I always bought the cheapest meal plan initially and then bought more points as I needed them.

  • Russell

    “Off campus students actually get the worst deal when it comes to paying overhead, and have the smallest meal plans.”

    I live off-campus, and actually I would disagree with this. (Please correct me if my math is wrong, though).

    Suppose an underclassman buys a Silver Plan. They get 3100 points, at a net cost of $4300, per the article. That’s $1.39/point.

    If an off-campus upperclassman wants that same number of points, they can buy an off-campus plan (650 points, for $1000) and add 2450 points to their campus card ($2450). Total cost, $3450. Cost per point, $1.11. That’s SIGNIFICANTLY better than what underclassmen pay. And those campus card points work the same way as meal points (I didn’t even notice when my meal plan was used up and my payments started coming out of the campus card account).

    For me, this setup works great. But the whole system is unnecessarily confusing and misleading – it’s ridiculous that there should be as much disagreement as we’re seeing in this comments section about the best way of paying Dining Services for our food.


    Ideally, Dining Services should make all options (meal plans, campus card, cash payments…) available on a $1/point basis, and adjust their prices in the dining areas accordingly. They will never do this, however, because it would mean a ~40% increase in the already high prices shown on their menus, which would probably turn a lot of [much needed] scrutiny their way.

  • a name is in this box

    Since when did actual meal points roll over at the end of the semester?

  • student

    Dining services changed meal plans for this year to address precisely this problem. The meal plans were changed so that each plan contributes that same amount, not the same percentage, towards overheard. Those with larger meal plans are paying a smaller percentage of the plan’s cost towards overhead costs, thus incentivizing students to buy the meal plan that actually fits their needs

    Undergraduates still bear all of the overhead burden, which is another issue that Dining Services can address in the future.

  • S

    You can give some of your points to a friendly upperclassman who lives off campus! Off campus students actually get the worst deal when it comes to paying overhead, and have the smallest meal plans. Those of us who just want to eat lunch on campus have run out of points weeks ago. Be friendly, and next time you see an upperclassman in Whispers or the DUC, offer to buy them a sandwich, and make a new friend!

    • Anon

      So use your campus card. It actually costs less.