<< Front page Commentary May 14, 2004

Dining plans costs are unfair

To the Editors:

My grievance today is regarding the dining plans. I have calculated the current costs per meal of 3 meal plans. My methodology is straightforward, and I welcome CDS to explain or correct me if I have indeed erred in my calculation. Each semester is approximately 14 weeks long. If one subtracts the Flex from the costs per semester and then divides by the number of weeks and again by the number of meals in the plan, a rough estimate of the cost per meal is achieved.

My calculations are based on this year’s meal plan costs. Keep in mind that next year’s costs are significantly higher. For the 14 meal plan, we are paying $1,725 with 150 Flex, per semester.

This results in costs per meal of $8. For the 7 meal plan, we are paying $1,625 with 320 Flex, per semester. This costs an incredible $13.32 per meal. The true stinger is the five meal plan, which costs $1,500 with 270 Flex per semester. The costs per meal, in this case, could buy me a gourmet meal: $17.57.

My question is why am I paying twice the price per meal, just so I can eat less on campus? One friend explained that our dining expenses subsidize our tuition. If tuition must be subsidized, why is it in some hidden meal plan cost? Can’t I just pay Oberlin my tuition subsidy and get off board all together?

I had another thought: maybe it’s the inflation, but this doesn’t make sense. Inflation is definitely not affecting the differences in costs between meal plans. And, to tell you the truth, the increase in costs for next year is not related to inflation either. We have had steady low inflation for many years now!

Maybe the salaries we pay the CDS workers went up, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. If it is due to providing our CDS workers with a living wage, I’m happy to pay — but why do I have to pay twice if I’m using their services half as much?

My friends at other schools can get off the meal plan after their first year. What has gone so financially wrong with Oberlin that we can’t be allowed the same privilege?

To the Administration, ResLife and CDS, I want to be able to get off the meal plan and buy my own food, instead of paying $1500 per semester, in addition to buying my own food, and then not eating my $17.57 meals that are clearly not worth that much. I want to know where the costs come from and why I have to pay more to eat less. I want the dining cost structure to change so everyone pays the same per meal! I want to be informed of the meal plan costs in writing in the spring semester, and for them to not change by the fall, unlike this past year.

I, like many on this campus, am sick of trying to figure out what this school is going to take away from us next, or what new charge they will institute. I am frustrated with the lack of respect that we are given by the College.

This lack of respect affects whether we, the students, tell others to come here, whether we give money as alumni, or whether we choose to stay here rather than transfer. If this school is going to remain viable in the future, I suggest some changes be made.

–Elaine Hill
College junior


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