Fall 2011 will bring the next chapter in the ongoing mandatory meal plan saga. While no changes have been approved by the University of Louisville, several potential changes to the meal plan have been suggested for the fall.
It has been proposed that on-campus resident meal plan prices would increase by roughly 25 percent. In addition, there will likely be a shift in the way the Ville Grill meal swipes are allocated.
“The major complaint we were receiving was that students weren’t always able to use all of their meals for the week,” said David Martin, director of purchasing for U of L. “So, what we did was, we went to the block plan.”
According to Martin, the block plan will consist of 190 meals per semester, as opposed to seven meals per week. Currently, unused meals are forfeited at the end of the week. If this plan is approved, unused meals will now expire at the end of the semester.
The benefits, according to Martin, would be increased control in meal plan spending and increased flexibility.
The Student Government Association and the Resident Student Association, who discussed the move to the block plan with university officials, said that the decision was in the best interest of the students.
“The old plan just wasn’t working,” said Brandon McReynolds, the SGA press secretary and a sophomore political science major. “Students should get the most for their money. They pay for it, so they should be able to spend it when they want.”
Some students believe a change to the block plan will increase meal swipe usability.
“It would definitely help,” said Meagan Fisher, a freshman psychology major. “I go home on weekends and so if I don’t use my meal swipes by Thursday, I just lose them.”
According to Martin, meal plan prices may also increase in the fall of 2011.
The increases will not affect commuter students, whose mandatory meal plan would remain at the spring 2011 price of $175 per semester. However, the rate for resident students with kitchens would jump from $745 to $930 per semester – a nearly 25 percent increase. Students living in dorms without kitchens would see a nearly 26 percent increase, as their rate changes from $1,165 to $1,465 per semester.
Some students say that a price increase may cause financial problems.
“I’m not sure I’ll be able to pay for it,” said Fisher. “I’m barely making it now.”
According to Martin, the price increase was a part of the university’s contract with Sodexo and has been scheduled since that contract was signed in 2008. Sodexo has confirmed the contracted price increase.
“There were benefits,” said Martin. “Sodexo has invested over $6 million into dining facilities on campus…That was part of the original contract, that they would do all of that for us. But there were the painful changes that had to go along with it.”
Although this increase was contracted in 2008, one resident adviser, who wished to remain anonymous, said that many of her residents were unaware of the potential increase in meal plan prices.
“They never said that it would change in two years,” said the RA. “I just found out about it this year and I work for the university. It’ll definitely cause a commotion among returning students.”
However, according to members of SGA, students’ opinions were taken into consideration before approval was given.
“We talked to lots of students,” said John Weber, the SGA services vice president and a junior political science and philosophy double major. Weber is also a member of the U of L Food Advisory Committee. “We try to make sure their voices are heard.”
According to Martin, the biggest issue is communication.
“Communication is always something that we try to focus on,” said Martin. “We have a need to notify students that there is going to be a change. What we don’t want to do is to have approval from the board and not have notified students…We need to make sure everybody knows that up front.”
According to Weber, the changes being proposed now were scheduled to take effect for the fall 2010 semester. They were delayed because of Ville Grille’s belated completion.
Martin said that this was the last scheduled increase included in U of L’s contract with Sodexo, which expires on June 30, 2018.