By SIERRA HORTON
Imagine you get into the college of your dreams, and you soon realize that your meal plan is only a few digits shy of being the same amount of your room and board. You are confused and upset, but you look forward to being an upperclassman because surely next year you’ll have more freedom of choice, especially with your meal plan, right? For the upperclassmen of Mary Washington, that’s not the case.
Every upperclassman should be able to choose from the same list of meal plans, no matter where you live.
“I feel like if you’re an upperclassman you should be able to pick any meal plan you want,” said sophomore and accounting major Rhiannon Smith.
Because of the two-year housing agreement, every non-commuter student is required to live on campus for at least their first two years here at Mary Washington. We all know this and we’ve learned to embrace it; however, one thing we haven’t embraced are the limited meal plan options, specifically, the meal plan options for upperclassmen living in residence halls.
“I think there are definitely not enough meal plan options and they aren’t flexible enough to fit each students’ life,” said sophomore biology major Megan Westmoreland, who lives in a residence hall on campus.
The reason I chose to live in a residence hall for my second year here at Mary Washington is simply because I, much like many other college students, am trying to save money in every way I can. Since it is less expensive, I am living in the Link where I assumed I would be able to choose the 75 meal block plan, which is the smallest plan offered to on campus students. I hoped to buy groceries, store them in my mini fridge, and use the beautiful, modern kitchen provided in my residence hall.
Despite this assumption, I quickly learned that I was not eligible for this meal plan because I don’t live in Eagle Landing or the UMW apartments and I didn’t have 90 credits, which are the two qualifications for choosing the 90 or 75 block plans.
“I don’t understand how your amount of credits determines how much food you can or can’t eat on campus,” said sophomore psychology major Megan Hook.
Not only are the meal plans for upperclassmen living on campus expensive, but they are also inconvenient.
“I’m a vegetarian to I find it really hard to find food, but with a smaller meal plan I could eat more things that I prefer instead of tofu, beans, and salad at the UC every day,” said Hook.
This inconvenience has made it especially hard for students taking certain classes that interfere with operation hours of food on campus. “It’s hard getting a set amount of meals per semester, especially since they don’t carry over and it’s difficult to budget it out throughout the semester when there are uncertainties. For example, you don’t always know when you are going home and things like that. I don’t like having to plan my schedule around when I can eat, just because the UC only has meals available at certain times. For instance, if you get out of lab at 1:45, by the time you get to the UC there is nothing but bagels and toast, and if you have a night class, dinner only lasts a few hours, so you just have to hope that one of the other dining options on campus is open,” said Westmoreland.
“I think the university should look at how many people are using meal swipes, take an average, and use that to make new meal plan options. Or take an overall survey and ask things like ‘How many meal swipes do you use?’ Not based on year, but everyone should have the same meal plan options, even freshmen. I remember when I was a freshman I used less than 225 meal swipes last year, but I was paying way too much for it. I just don’t need that many meal swipes and I shouldn’t be forced to pay for them,” says Hook.
I completely agree with Hook’s suggestion and I believe the university should take action to get our opinions on meal plans since we are the one’s purchasing and using them. I suggest that the university send out a survey via email about meal plan pricing and requirements, instead of making decisions for students without our input, and I’m certain that the majority of other students would agree that our required meal plans are too large. The University can simply ask us and see that we are college students capable of cooking our own meals and we want the financial freedom to do so.
All we want is the ability to choose from the same list of meal plans, no matter where we live or how many credits we have.