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Meal Plan System Controversy

Oklahoma Christian University’s meal plan options have caused controversy on campus.

Oklahoma Christian offers three residence hall meal plans, two apartment meal plans and one commuter plan. Students can upgrade or downgrade their meal plan in the first three weeks in the semester. Meal plans for the residence halls start at $1,750 for a semester, while the apartment plans start at $630 a semester.

Lauren Olson, the catering director and general manager for UDining, said the meal plan system was designed collaboratively.

“We work with the university,” Olson said. “They say ‘here’s what we’re looking to offer’ and then we make those plans work. We do have a say in it, but it’s driven from the university side.”

Sophomore Logan Miller has the on-campus 15-meals-per-week meal plan. He said his experience with the meal plans on campus have been mostly negative due to a rare eating disorder.

“My diet is severely limited because of severe anxiety, and my parents tried very hard to not get me a meal plan at all, but the school would not allow it because I live on campus,” Miller said.

Miller said he struggles to eat at the cafeteria, but he still has to pay.

“My parents and I basically have been wasting tons of money for me to be able to eat at the cafeteria at max five times a week,” Miller said.

The residence hall meal plans also offer two all-access plans. The five day all-access plan is $1,750 a semester, and the seven day all-access plan is $1,975 a semester.

Senior Jonathon Rockefeller has worked for UDining for five years. Rockefeller said he frequently sees students struggling with their meal plans and cafeteria swipes.

“Not everyone either has enough meal swipes, or more likely, didn’t budget how many times they would eat in the cafeteria during the semester,” Rockefeller said.

He said there is another lesser-known option for students who run out of swipes.

“Most people don’t know that you can use eagle bucks to swipe into the cafeteria,” Rockefeller said.

Oklahoma Christian’s meal plan costs are comparable to other colleges. The University of Central Oklahoma offers meal plans for on-campus students starting at 19 meals a week, with $100 dining dollars, for $2,275 per semester.

The meal plan page for student accounts says if students have a current meal plan they do not want, students should contact their Personal Financial Counselor.

On the opposite side, students who have extra meals often swipe in their friends to use up their meal plan. Olson said there used to be ways to transfer meal credits between students, but rolling over meal plan swipes comes with potential problems.

“What we’ve run into in the past is when people would take advantage of other people, then that person would run out, and it makes it a little more complicated,” Olson said. “You just want to make sure both sides are totally buying into the agreement, but it is something we could look at.”

Senior Caleb Phelps is on the commuter plan, which is part of the $250 commuter fee. The fee includes $50 Eagle Bucks, 25 meals, and a parking permit. Phelps said changing the commuter system was hard to get used to but practical for his schedule.

“It’s really convenient because I have a lot of classes that bunch together at lunch time, but at the same time it’s kind of a ‘why give this to me two years after I get here?’” Phelps said.

Phelps said one issue commuters can run into is the inability to alter one’s meal plan beyond the first three weeks of the semester. The only options given to commuter students is adding either 25 extra meals or 50 additional meals.

Olson said the reason students cannot change their plans after the first few weeks is due to budget.

“We base our staffing levels on this as it is our revenue for each week,” Olson said. “We base how much we’re ordering on that.” 

Olson said the situation for all students would never be perfect.

“There are a lot of students on meal plans and they all have different needs,” Olson said. “We’re trying to fit a few solutions to a lot of different scenarios which is never going to match everything ideally.”

Olson said she wished students would participate in more surveys to give feedback.

“We do listen to those, and that’s really what drives our decision making for the following semester,” Olson said.

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