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Students question mandatory meal plan policy

For several decades, Oklahoma Christian University has utilized U Dining to provide food services and create mandatory meal plans for all undergraduate students living on campus.

Although these meal plans have been a constant since U Dining became the primary food service provider used by Oklahoma Christian, it has not stopped students from wondering if mandatory meal plans are the best solution for everyone, especially those looking to reduce their student debt load. According to the Oklahoma Christian website, meal plans range in cost from $1,650 to $4,200 per year, with residence hall meal plans falling on the higher end of the cost spectrum.

Sophomore Tee Bradshaw said the meal plans do not accurately assess the amount of time students actually visit the cafeteria, and even though there are options for fewer cafeteria visits, those plans cost more.

“I think the meal plans are ridiculous, because they count on you visiting the cafeteria too much,” Bradshaw said. “A lot of people finish the week with five or six swipes left but can’t resort to Eagle Bucks because plans with higher Eagle Bucks cost more.”

Bradshaw said she would like U Dining to offer a a customization option, in which students would pick a plan with the price varying depending on what their needs are. She hopes this plan will cater more to underclassmen, as it would allow every person to decide his or her own dietary needs.

Bradshaw is not the only student who believes the meal plans are not the best for students. Senior Maia Zeno said when she was an underclassman, she constantly underused her meal plan, choosing it for price and not realistic use. Now an upperclassman, Zeno said she believes the apartments’ meal plans are still too much for what she is actually using.

“Personally, I cook a lot, so I’m not going to use all of my Caf swipes,” Zeno said. “That just ends up making it a waste of money.”

According to Zeno, there are better ways U Dining can personalize meal plans, as the options for students in the apartments should differ from those of the students living in the dorms. In Zeno’s hypothetical plan, when a student runs out of Eagle Bucks, they can convert unused weekly cafeteria swipes into new Eagle Bucks.

However, President of U Dining Kurt Hermanson said he wants to ensure every meal plan given is according to the needs and provision of the cafeteria staff and food. Hermanson explained the mandatory meal plans not only give students all the meals they need, but also allow for U Dining to make sure they have everything in accord.

“We know that if a student purchases the 21 meal plan option that they realistically will only use 60 percent of those meals,” Hermanson said. “So we base our pricing on what we know they are going to eat. We don’t base it on 21 and cheer when they go under.”

Hermanson said the algorithm they use to determine the amount of meals a student would actually use in a week is based on previous years’ average swipes per week. He believes this plan allows a fair assessment of pricing and prevents overcharging students for swipes they do not use.

According to Hermanson, U Dining adjusts the meal plans frequently, changing them to fit every year’s collective needs.

“We didn’t have the 12 per week meal plan before, as it used to be 15,” Hermanson said. “We’ve really never had any complaints, besides student teachers and nursing students. But, I think the options are spread out enough to where a student that is only here five times a week can opt in for the 12 meal plan and be okay.”

Hermanson said he wants all students who use U Dining services to know they take extreme care in everything they do, ensuring students get the best quality food they can provide. If students or parents would like to learn more, they can visit the official U Dining website.

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