OVERHEAD MEAL PLAN IN THE WORKS TO BE PROPOSED BY UAS
University Auxiliary Services Director Stephen Pearse anticipates that a new meal plan could bring students to dine in the Campus Center if approved come December.
Under the plan, up for review at the Dec. 5 UAS services subcommittee meeting, students will pay for dining overhead costs in advance. By paying for operational costs all together, the model allows students to buy meals at the Campus Center and residence halls at a reduced price.
“I think this is just going to give everyone so much more flexibility,” said Steve O’ Riley, Sodexo regional district manager.
The desire to create a meal plan available for resident and retail locations on campus arose during the planning process to close Dutch Quad dining hall last year. With students in the living area without a dining hall, UAS sought to a new option to provide Dutch Quad residents access to the Campus Center venues.
Searching for a new meal plan option last summer, UAS landed on Virginia Tech’s model for inspiration.
“They’re always ranked in the top five for college dining and I think part of it is because of the flexibility students have,” said Pearse. “By paying that overhead then you’re free to go anywhere.”
All plans provided under the college’s in-house dining service follow the overhead system with overhead costs at $1,067. With operational costs paid for in advance at VT, the college’s plans allow discounts as high as 67 percent.
With less students dining at UAlbany, unlike VT, discounts for in-house brands are expected to be around 40 percent. Pearse also predicted outside brands at University to be have lower discounts, at 30 percent.
While discounts under the overhead system, if approved, will be new to campus, the option to choose between retail and residence dining without using Munch Money previously existed until last year. As a result of Campus Center renovation last fall, meal trades, a system allowing students to eat on the podium with meal swipes, were eliminated.
“I kind of have to budget [Munch Money] out to make sure it lasts the whole semester so it would be a lot more convenient to just count swipes rather than money,” said Maureen Mecca, a sophomore social sciences student.
With increased flexibility under the proposed plan, Pearse believes that the overhead model could quickly gain popularity. He has considered extending the deadline to switch meal plans beyond two weeks.
Along with deadlines, some measures included the plan, such as rates, are still up in the air. UAS expects that the new plan would have similar costs to current meal plans available for residential students on campus. Meal plans for students living on campus range from $2,000 to $2,640.
Wesley Sherow, president of Moo Plans, a meal plan startup run by UAlbany students and graduates, believes the overhead model fails to address reducing meal plan costs on campus.
“Honestly I don’t know every detail of this proposal, but it seems to me that students actually won’t be spending any less, but instead just paying for a portion of their meal plans upfront,” Sherow said.
Last year, the overall rate for meal plans increased three percent; the same raise was approved for the 2015-16 academic year.
Karl Luntta, director of media relations, said that meal plan costs have risen over the last two years due to inflation, higher wages, and increasing operational costs.