Any Cup Noodles-loving college student will tell you that nobody is better at being shifty with money than a university. This idea is only reinforced by a recent article from The New York Times. Some universities are using money from students’ meal plans for things other than food, The New York Times reported. Some of the meal plan revenue at schools across the country has been used to fund scholarships, pay for private party catering and even pay for renovations on university presidents’ houses.
For the record, I have no way of knowing if this is happening at our own university. Our meal plan money could be funding President Brown’s mustache wax for all we know.
As of right now, Boston University doesn’t require students who live off-campus or in on-campus apartment-style residences to purchase a meal plan.
Other colleges, however, are starting to charge all students a fee of a few hundred dollars to help pay for the universities’ contracts with vending companies. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s vendor catered a party for a university staff member’s children, then charged the university (and by extension the students) for the event. I don’t know if universities want to look like bad guys all the time, but honestly, they’re really good at doing it.
Next year, Brandeis University will require seniors who live in dorms with kitchens to pay meal fees. The new fees will help pay for the college’s dining hall renovations, according to the Times. Even if those lucky students with kitchens choose not to eat at a dining hall, I’m sure they’ll still appreciate looking at the prettier, newly renovated dining halls their unused meal plan helped pay for.
When it’s senior year and I’m a big boy possibly living off-campus (or at least somewhere with a kitchen), I definitely won’t want to be forced to pay for a dining plan. Yeah, the dining hall food is good and dandy, but I don’t even want the option to have same kind of food I’ve been eating for the past three years. Food variety is one of the reasons why I moved halfway across the country for college. Eighteen years of cheap steak and Hamburger Helper cooking will make you do wild things.
I don’t know what my dining plan cost helps fund, but every semester I pay it with my loaned money just the same. I know I’m just a student paying a business to teach me how to write, but I think it would at least be fun to know what my dining money helps pay for, especially if it’s not food.
I don’t care if BU uses the money from dining plans on something other than food. If students made a fuss, universities would probably just raise overall tuition instead. Maybe it’s better for students to think that their dining services are improving, even if they aren’t. Or maybe universities should be more transparent, even if it leaves a bad taste in the administration’s mouth.