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University Union affecting student meal plans

University Union affecting student meal plans

September 03
10:59 2015

Alejandro Medellin | Staff Writer

@skinny_fats

Students with a meal plan now have more options to spend their flex dollars, but because the University Union food court is not available, some students feel they are spending more on the options they have always had.

Students with meal plans must pay a $3 flex charge to eat at Kerr Hall after 9 p.m., and $4 in flex to eat there on the weekends. To reflect the change, dining services has significantly increased the amount of flex dollars students receive in their meal plans, depending on the plan.

Flex dollars have increased because the Union will give students more spending options. Once the Union opens, the dining halls will close at 9 p.m. on weekdays, and on Saturdays students will only have the food court retailers to choose from.

“It seems the university is probably giving more flexibility for the students to spend their money,” finance professor Ian Liu said.

Depending on the meal plan, the amount of flex dollars can vary between $90 for the most basic plan and $400 for the top plan with a difference of $265 in total cost. Previously, students received $50 in flex for the basic weekday plan, but now with the increase in flex dollars students can spend that money in all the food retail locations on campus.

“Students overwhelmingly show they would prefer the increase in flex, and the availability to have more choice in their meal plan,” said Peter Balabuch, director of resident dining.

Dining services is doing something to appease students who had meal plans prior to this year, before the changes occurred.

“We have reached out to the students who were on a plan last year and if they want to, we can revert back to what we’re calling a legacy meal plan,” Balabuch said. “After they’ve looked and fully understood the benefit of the added flex, not one person has chosen to go to a legacy plan.”

Students without meal plans who are trying to save money can eat at West Hall cafeteria for $5 at the door, a new feature the university started offering this semester. That’s compared to the $7.25 walk-in price at other dining halls.

Although dining halls provide students with a myriad of options at mealtime, administrators say it is always good to have other options.

“If you eat everyday in the cafeteria you might get tired of it even if it’s great food, but there are not too many choices,” Liu said. “Now you have these retail stores.”

After the Union opens up later this semester, the only choice hungry students will have after hours is to eat at the retail locations there.

“We’re slow adapters, we’re animals of habit and something that changes always makes us a little bit nervous,” marketing professor Francisco Guzman said. “Especially something that changes and we don’t know how it’s going to change.”

Featured Image: A student pays for his dinner at Kerr Hall cafeteria Wednesday night. Matt Brown | Staff Photographer

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