When I was a freshman, meal plans seemed like such a great deal. You were able to get into Southside with one swipe and use it almost anywhere else with a $6 equivalency. The problem is you’re paying over $8 a meal on some plans, but only get $6-worth of food every time you use a meal plan anywhere other than Southside. Yes, you do save at the door every time you go to Southside, but who always wants to go to Southside? Especially the way it’s been lately — with poorer food quality than ever before, along with extreme wait times and the impossibility of finding a decent table.

As students who are paying thousands of dollars for a meal plan, should we be restricted to only using it in Southside, or else get ripped off? Why not make our equivalency at least close to what the actual value of the meal plan is? Some might say $2 doesn’t seem a lot every meal, but if you’re paying $6.29 for a large sub and want a drink, you’re paying over $8, which means you have to use some other form of payment. You end up actually spending over $10 on the same sub and drinks just because you’re swiping your G-card for a meal plan. Yes, not everyone has to have a meal plan, but it provides a huge factor of convenience. That factor shouldn’t result in being robbed of our money. Dining has made a conscious effort to increase meal deal options, but who always wants to get that nasty, bootleg Chinese food?

Let’s look at the math on a Flex 175 meal plan for the semester. Take the total cost of the plan, which is $1,425 (that includes subtracting the bonus cost so you can see how much you pay per meal), and divide it by the number of meals. You end up paying $8.14 per meal plan. Now, here’s where it gets tricky, so bear with me. The difference between the Flex 175 and the Flex 200, for example, is only 25 meals, but the monetary difference of the actual plan is only $50. So for what would ultimately be a difference of roughly $194-worth of meal plans, you’re only saving yourself $50 — when you really should be given credit back for the $194. Why should we pay such a gross difference more per meal just because we have a slightly lower meal plan option? It should be a flat rate no matter the size of the option. It’s not complicated — and I barely got through Math 106.

The Dining website does note ways to use meal plans more “wisely” to get your full money’s worth, but the option of using bonus every time it’s under $6 isn’t feasible. Bonus runs dry pretty quick when you use it that way.

And what’s up with that $4.75 breakfast equivalency? Even though, proportionally, breakfast certainly costs less, why allot me less money if I’m already paying $8.14 per meal (with the Flex 175), which ends up losing you $3.39 per swipe? A couple of dollars here or there doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you’re an on-the-go person and accustomed to using your $6 equivalency at places other than Southside, you can end up expending an extra $20 a week by using your meal plan. Now just think of what an extra $20 could do for a college student? The possibilities are endless!

I know there’s a formula the university administration uses to keep the prices the way they are, but the amount of money you use per meal is still indefensible. I didn’t even get into the fact that if you have a weekly plan and end up going home earlier for a break, when meal allotments are prorated, you could waste a lot of money in meals.

Still, I don’t see why we can’t just be given the fair share of what we’re paying for. The equivalency should be bumped up at least another $1 and meal deals should be utilized across a wider variety of options.

WGMU’s Storm Paglia contributed to this piece.





  1. First of all, students on the 19-weekly plan enjoy a GAIN of $.41 every time they eat using cash equivalency – they pay only $5.59 per meal, but receive a full $6.00 in cash equivalency! So the idea that somehow we’re out to rip everybody off is not accurate. If you do the math, you can easily see what the best value is among the meal plans.

    Furthermore, if you enjoy the convenience of paying for meals using your GMU ID, but don’t like the block and flex Meal Plans – then get a Freedom Meal Plan and get dollar for dollar equivalency. Or better yet, if you want even more ‘freedom’ and still want the convenience of using your GMU ID, just load your card with Mason Money – any amount you want – and also enjoy dollar for dollar parity at any dining site.

    Did you just not do your homework before writing this article or are you intentionally distorting the facts?

  2. Alex Romano says:

    Well Charles not everyone wants to have a 19-week a meal because who in the world is actually going to eat that much? I know one person throughout my career here that has been on that plan, which is mostly sought out by athletes and is a plan that was just created a couple years ago.

    You do make some good points, which are things no one would do because it’s not convenient, but Mark Kraner (your boss’s, boss’s boss) and many other students agreed with us…and the equivalency got changed since the printing of this article and I think our article had something to do with that change because it sparked the discussion.