Having a meal plan should not be mandatory for students living on campus; the plans are too expensive, food choices on campus are too limited and there are alternative ways to feed yourself that can be more cost-affective and befitting to one’s taste.
If you’re a person who likes options, campus food isn’t for you. When I came to UCA my freshman year, I was excited by what I thought were multiple food options available on campus.
The Christian Cafeteria with its “changing menu of specialties” and the food court with its many fast food options had me completely enthralled.
The idea of a “meal equivalency” excited me the most. I could basically swap a meal at the cafeteria for specially marked meal items at the food court.
Sadly, as time passed, I learned that that there weren’t as many options as I thought. I didn’t think I would tire of Chick-fil-A, but I did. I didn’t think the changing menu in the cafeteria would leave me unsatisfied, but it did.
So instead of eating campus-provided meals, I would eat the food I had in my dorm or eat out. Doing either made me feel incredibly guilty for not using the meals on campus that I paid for.
I’m paying $1,538 a semester for meals that don’t taste like $1,538 a semester, so I end up spending more money on food that satisfies me. I think on-campus students should have the option to drop the meal plan and instead eat out, grocery shop or use BearBucks. Some students would rather spend more money eating out than eat on campus.
For example, a friend of mine didn’t want the campus meal plan, but was required to have one. He used it for a few weeks, but he got bored of the same bland food (as most of us probably do).
He chose instead to spend more money and eat out. If the meal plan was optional, he would be able to spend his money on the food that he actually wanted to eat.
Some students might prefer to grocery shop instead of use their limited meal plan. It would be nearly impossible for one to spend $1,538 on groceries for one person during one semester anyway, so ditching the meal plan would probably save students money in the long run.
The tricky part here is, how is one going to prepare the groceries he buys? It would be difficult, considering only a few dorms allow microwaves in dorm rooms, but many dorms have a community kitchen with an oven and a microwave.
It would be difficult to take time out of a busy schedule to prepare food, but it would be worth it in in terms of the money one would save as well as the quality of the food one could prepare.
Students who live on campus shouldn’t have to purchase an expensive meal plan, but if they want to eat on campus, BearBucks should also be an option.
BearBucks are reloadable, and anything you purchase using BearBucks is tax-free. The best part is they never expire, as long as the student is enrolled at UCA.
BearBucks would be a great option for the on-campus students who don’t want to eat in the Student Center or the cafeteria all the time. With BearBucks, your options expand in the Student Center; you can purchase items you can’t on the meal equivalency plan.
If on-and-off-campus students were allowed to use only BearBucks, they could eat on campus, buy groceries and eat out. They could have money on the card until they graduate and they could add more money when they need to.
UCA should not be ignorant toward the various ways students can feed themselves without purchasing an expensive meal plan. This could help on-campus students ultimately save money and have a more appetizing college experience.
Photo Courtesy of: studentcenter.gatech.edu