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Campus Meal Plans

Meal Plan Overview: Meal plans are usually grouped into two categories: mandatory and non-mandatory.

  • Mandatory Meal Plans are plans where meals are required, per university policy. Mandatory meal plans are sometimes assigned to students per their class year (i.e. all freshman are required to be on a meal plan). Sometimes, whether a meal plan is mandatory or not depends on a student's residence hall assignment. As an example students in traditional halls where 2 students share a room might be required to be on a meal plan, whereas students living in apartments with kitchens are typically not required to be on a meal plan.
  • Non-Mandatory Meal Plans are plans where student voluntarily sign-up to be on a meal plan.

Types of Meal Plans: A wide variety of meal plans are offered for students. Meal plans in general typically involve the following:

  • The purchase of a set number of meals per week: These meal plans involve providing students with a set number of meals per week, for a specified price, which are eaten in the traditional campus dining center. The number of meals offered per week varies, but meal plans that provide 19 meals per week, 15 meals per week and 10 meals per week are fairly common. These meal plans usually provide "all you can eat" dining. In these meal plans, non-eaten meals at the end of the week are forfeited, in that they cannot be carried over from week to week.

    If your institution requires a mandatory meal plan involving the purchase of a set number of meals, as a general rule you should know that students typically eat fewer meals than you would think. It is probably easier to purchase fewer meals up front, and add more meals later, than attempt to have a higher number of meals reduced.

    In general, students may become frustrated by the perception that they are not receiving value from their meal plan, because missed meals are forfeited. As a point of reference, it is important to note that when meal plans are priced by the campus dining service provider, they price the cost of a meal plan based on national averages for missed meals. So in as much as it seems that you are getting less value because of missed meals, the cost of your meal plan would be much higher initially if missed meals were not taken into consideration

  • Declining Balance Plans: Sometimes meal plans come with a declining balance, which is a specified amount of money that is attached to the meal plan. Declining balance dollars are monies that are placed on a debit card, that can be used in food operations at the university, other than and including the campus dining center. Declining balance dollars generally add flexibility to a campus dining plan, increasing the dining options that are available to students, and adding more variety to the campus dining plan.
  • Block Meal Plans: Block meal plans provide students with a set number of meals for an entire semester, which are eaten in the traditional campus dining center. The student has control over how often they use their meal plan. These plans usually involve "all you can eat" dining. On these plans, it is fairly typical that meals are not carried over from one semester to the next, in that uneaten meals at the end of a semester are forfeited. In many instances, block meal plans may come with declining balance dollars.
  • Ala-Carte Dining: In ala-carte dining plans, students pay for food items as they go. Students pay established pricing for individual food items, and these amounts are either paid in cash or debited from declining balance dollars.
  • Cash Equivalency: Cash equivalencies are sometimes offered in ala-carte dining facilities. A cash equivalency takes a meal from a traditional meal plan and coverts it to a set dollar amount that can be used towards the purchase of food items in the ala-carte dining facility.

Getting Released From A Mandatory Meal Plan: It is very unusual for a student to be released from a mandatory meal plan, and you should know that right up front. A student with special dietary needs or cultural issues that impact a meal plan, or a student who simply wishes not to participate, will most likely be required to submit that request in writing to the University designee for food service on the campus. The letter will require formalized documentation as to why the release is required. Making the request and providing the documentation does not alone get your released from the meal plan. Campus food service providers have dieticians and staff who work with them to assess individual student needs and find strategies for meeting that need through the meal plan. As was stated earlier, typically releases from a mandatory meal plan are rarely granted.

Special Needs: Your campus food service provider will work hard to meet your special dietary needs. Special needs should be brought to the attention of the University designee responsible for campus dining on your campus.