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Fee frenzy: Students question meal plan cost

MU says $1,725 base fee is down from previous semesters, covers cost of quality facilities

By Libby Mueller, Senior Staff Writer

Students are beginning to question the $1,725 fee charged to their Diplomat meal plan at the start of each semester.

While the university does provide a 60 percent discount for meal plan holders at buffet locations and a 30 percent discount at all other locations, students say they are unclear as to where those additional dollars are specifically going.

"I don't think it's fair," first-year Edward Zapanta said. "I don't know where the money goes, but I assume it goes to general facilities. My parents were very curious about it, and I didn't know what to tell them. But you don't really have a choice to not sign up for a meal plan, because you need to be able to feed yourself."

Director of Housing Options, Meals and Events (HOME), Brian Woodruff, tried to clear up any confusion, explaining that the base fee covers a variety of the costs necessary to run the dining facilities.

"The program assessment fee portion, the base fee, helps to cover administrative costs, labor, supplies, maintenance and utilities, any of the non-food overhead costs," Woodruff said. "There's that portion up front to support the dining program and because of that we offer the discount."

According to Woodruff, MU has worked hard to keep the fee as close to the actual costs as possible. Because of that, the university constantly re-evaluates the fee.

"We're just beginning the process to determine the rates for next year," Woodruff said. "We really take [the fee] very seriously and consider the costs as carefully as we can when determining rates to keep the fee as close to our actual costs as possible and keep it reasonable for the students."

This semester, the fee actually decreased from previous semesters.

"This year is in fact the first time we were able to lower it," Woodruff said.

Sophomore Katie Gliebe said she thinks the assessment fee is important to cover the costs associated with running MU's dining facilities, but wishes the university would be more transparent about the costs.

"I understand why they have the base fee for utilities, maintenance and such. It's really important," Gliebe said. "But it's kind of confusing from the students' perspective. I think Miami could specifically say what the money is going toward online. It just says we have the base fee and doesn't necessarily have all the stuff it's going toward."

Under the Meal Plans tab on the Dining website, the section titled "Meal Plan Pricing" does stipulate there is a $1,725 fee and that it "supports the wide variety of residential dining locations, menu options, 24-hour service, labor, maintenance, utilities and special dietary services."

A student who goes to look at the pricing for the Diplomat plan can see the total cost for a semester with the fee included (for example, for a $1,100 Diplomat meal plan, the total cost is $2,825).

Gliebe said MU has delicious dining options, but she does wish the university would keep its buffet locations.

"It's kind of frustrating going from all open buffet dining halls to now, where everything's moving to a la carte," Gliebe said. "That's kind of hard on the students. Now you can only get so much [with your meal plan money]. But other than that, they offer a lot of options."

Sophomore Emily Tym said she believes the assessment fee for the Diplomat plan is fair, but also believes since MU is offering fewer buffet style dining locations on campus, purchasing food on campus seems increasingly more expensive.

"I think it's fair that price [the assessment fee] should be paid," Tym said. "But I wish there were more buffet style locations because it gets really expensive to buy a la carte."

Cost Comparison: MacCracken Market v. Kroger

Frosted Flakes cereal (10.5 oz. and 15 oz.) $7.75 / $2.99

Land of Lakes butter (1lb) $7.59 / $4.19

Oreo cookies (14.3 oz.) $7.59 / $2.99

Apples (5 lbs.) $9.25/$5.99

Bananas (5) $5.10/$1.75

Pilsbury chocolate chip cookie dough (16.5 oz.) $5.15/$2.69

Jar of Jif creamy peanut butter (16 oz.) $5.05 / $2.99

Nature Valley crunchy granola bars (box of 12) $5.75 / 2.99

Baby carrots (1 lb) $1.89 / $1.49

Sabra classic hummus (10 oz.) $3.99 / $3.99