There Is A Gap Between Prices And Values Of Meal Plans


Maggie Powell

Have you ever wondered what your meal plan is really worth? Would you be better off not getting a meal plan at all? The price of Deacon Dining meal plans is not worth the value students get in return.

When buying the Base Plan — which is the minimum-priced meal plan first-year students are allowed to purchase —  students are given 175 meal swipes (including 35 Old Golds) and 400 food dollars for a price of $2,567. Subtracting the 400 food dollars from the price, students pay $2,167 for 175 meal swipes, pricing each swipe at $12.38.

Each Base Plan student pays $12.38 for each Pit, New Pit and Old Gold swipe, assuming different types of swipes are valued equally.

On the Black Plan each swipe costs $10.99; on the Gold Plan $12.73; on the Screamin’ Plan $12.46; on the Apartment-Style Plan $13.44; and on the Commuter Plan $11.93. Meanwhile, access to the Pit costs between $8.00 and $13.00 when paying in cash, depending on the time of day (less expensive at breakfast, more expensive at lunch).

Additionally, every Old Gold option is priced below the minimum swipe price of $10.99 in cash.

Old Gold swipe values vary greatly between venues. A Moe’s burrito bowl Old Gold (burrito bowl, chips, drink) is priced at about $9.80, while a Starbucks Old Gold (tall coffee, pastry) is priced at about $4.60. If someone on the Base Plan were to use a Starbucks Old Gold for all 35 Old Gold swipes, they would spend approximately an extra $272.40 on Starbucks that semester by purchasing a meal plan.

For additional perspective, the Village Juice Miso Grain Bowl Old Gold is priced at $8.95, the Subway 6-inch sub with chips and a drink Old Gold is priced at $7.45, and the Moe’s Homewrecker Jr., chips, and drink Old Gold is priced at $8.05. The meal swipes are not the only overpriced aspect of the Deacon Dining meal plans.

Products in the P.O.D. are priced significantly higher than in off-campus grocers. In the Subway POD, Oreos are priced at $5.29 when the same pack is priced at $2.99 at Target.

A box of Subway P.O.D. Apple Jacks is priced at $5.69 when you can buy the same box at Target for $2.50. Most shockingly to me, Top Ramen costs $0.79 at the Subway P.O.D. when you can buy it at Target for $0.29, a 172.4 percent price increase.

I encourage the reader to compare the price of any P.O.D. good to its same price off-campus. Depending on what you buy, food dollars spent at P.O.D.s are worth about half the value of cash if you buy groceries off campus.

It is clear, when prices are broken down, that a Deacon Dining meal plan is not worth its price.

However, it would be negligent to overlook the convenience and risk-reduction value of a meal plan. Meal plans give students the luxury of not having to worry about budgeting for food.

Students’ meal budgets are already set and no matter how much cash they spend on other items, they have the security of their meal plans.

So, is this luxury of not having to worry about budgeting for food worth the money lost in the overpriced nature of campus meal plans?

Surely the answer depends on the individual, but for me and my preferences the answer is no. I would rather keep my money and decide to spend it on the same food for a lower price.