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Roanoke Raises Meal Plan Price and Continues Strict Guidelines


Article by Brigitte Rec

The saying goes “you are what you eat,” but if this phrase is referring to the price Roanoke College charges each student to eat in Sutton Commons, students are technically worth up to $6,862 a year.

Each year RC charges students an exorbitant amount to dine in the two eateries on campus; a price that many students don’t even recognize. After gaining some culinary experience of my own by cooking for myself over the past few summers, and while abroad, I decided senior year should be a time where I can make my own decisions, such as cooking for myself in a dorm, and begin taking on the responsibilities of an adult. However, Roanoke doesn’t make this strategy the easiest to achieve.

The policy goes like this: no matter what, freshmen are required to have 19 meals a week, the rest of the classes are given the option between 19 and 14 meals, and for those living in the on-campus apartments or living off campus, a 9 meal plan is selected for them unless they choose one of the other two options. In my quest to apply for a 9 meal plan (even though I’m technically ineligible to participate), I answered a series of questions mostly concerning health and dietary restrictions, received a doctor’s note clearing me to participate in the lower meal plan, and was required to write a personal statement as to why a 9 meal plan would benefit me. However, my application doesn’t stop there, my request is then processed by a board of students and faculty to determine whether my application should be accepted or denied. All to have five less meals in Commons and to put $1,092 back in my pocket.

        After breaking down the dining budget, which has increased by $570 from last school year, students with a 19 meal plan pay $6,862 a year which calculates to roughly $12.50 a meal in Commons. People with 14 meals pay $5,852 a year, equal to $15 a meal, and those with the 9 meal plan pay $3,668 a year which calculates to $15.40 a meal. While some students may make the most out of their dollar and take advantage of the buffet style dining, many students, like myself, don’t eat $12.50 or $15 worth of food during breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The end of the week is even more frustrating for budget conscious students, where the term “roll over” is absent in the college’s dining plan and “swiping out” in cavern is the only option. Receiving four sides per swipe, snacks that may combine to a total value of $6 outside of Roanoke, is costing students up to $15.40 on the weekend.

        Residence Life can take small steps to help benefit students and their money for dining options. A few ideas would be to allow all students to participate in a lower meal plan regardless of living arrangements on campus, enact a rollover rule where money wasted on unused swipes can be returned to students at the end of the year, or perhaps learn from our neighbors at Radford University and approve a “pay as you go” plan where students living on campus can load money onto their Maroon Card and personally decide which meals to purchase. With changes like these, over the course of four years not only will students learn a bit about money management, but also save a few Benjamins in the process.