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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Breaking down the economics of meal plans

Photo by Photo by Dalia Muayad

As the end of the semester approaches, many students are scrambling to use up the remainder of their meal trades.

As the semester comes to a close, many students find themselves scrambling to use up meal trades and avoid wasting money. In a report done by The Eagle in 2014, approximately $12 million in meal plans are purchased each semester.
There are a variety of semesterly meal plan options available. The higher end option includes $2,424 for 240 meals and an average of 13 to 15 meals a week with $500 dining dollars. Another option includes $1,450 for 95 meals and an average of five to six meals a week with $500 dining dollars. After freshman year, students can choose to purchase only dining dollars or purchase a smaller meal plan.
“Students are afforded numerous opportunities through the unrestricted trade policy we developed to use their meals,” said Courtney Bryant, Chartwells director of marketing and guest experience. “Students also have four weeks at the beginning of each semester to downgrade to a smaller meal plan, should they choose.”
Students can choose to use meal trades at select locations on campus in place of dining dollars. While off-campus students are not required to purchase a meal plan, on-campus freshmen must purchase a meal plan both semesters their first year.
“Students are busy and worrying about food is one concern that students should not have to deal with,” Bryant said. “Meal plans give students peace of mind knowing that while they are on campus, their meals are taken care of [and] also give students an opportunity to save money in the form of a bonus on dining dollar plans and a reduced door price on block plans.”
Chartwells, the company running A&M’s university dining system, is a part of Compass Group USA, the largest contract foodservice group in the world. In the contract between Chartwells and Texas A&M, Chartwells promised to generate $52 million over a 10 year period for Texas A&M with 10 percent of the commission each year coming directly from meal plan sales.
“Meals are purchased in the form of a block of meals in increments as low as 95 per semester or .8 meals per day,” Bryant said. “With the availability of this small plan, along with ample trade opportunities outside of the dining halls, there should never be an issue of left over.”
On average, each meal costs $9.46. A student with 100 meals left over at the end of the semester will suffer a loss of around $900.
Many students are uninformed about the price breakdown of meal plans even though there is a large sum of money to be left on the table.
“I feel like A&M could improve their meal plans,” business administration freshman Emily Atteberry said. “I would have chosen a smaller meal plan had I known how expensive it is.”
Atteberry said she will have about 20 meals leftover, resulting in a loss of approximately $180, and wishes there were more options for meals.
“I wish we could use our meals at off-campus locations,” Atteberry said. “I think meal plans and meal trades could be cheaper.”

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