Students call commuter meal plans ‘a rip-off’

Photo by Kaye Burnet | The Duquesne Duke Takeyla Grubd charges a student for her salad at The Incline. Students can use meal swipes, cash or card to purchase combos at several locations on campus.

Photo by Kaye Burnet | The Duquesne Duke
Takeyla Grubd charges a student for her salad at The Incline. Students can use meal swipes, cash or card to purchase combos at several locations on campus.

By Carolyn Conte | The Duquesne Duke

A close look at on-campus dining prices reveals that Duquesne’s commuters overpay for university meal plans.

The results show it would be cheaper to pay for campus food with cash than to purchase a commuter meal plan without financial aid, according to information on the Duquesne Dining web page.

Commuters can choose to purchase meal plans, unlike resident students, who are required to buy meal plans unless they live in Brottier.

Parkhurst Dining offers three meal plan options for commuters: a block of 100 meal swipes and $150 Flex for $1,235, 84 swipes with $150 Flex for $1,076 or 45 swipes with $150 Flex for $649.

Under these plans, the approximate dollar equivalent of each meal swipe is $10.85, $11.02 and $11.09, respectively, according to the statistics.

By paying in cash instead of purchasing a meal plan, commuters could save more than $200 per semester.

Meal swipes can be used on campus to eat at the Father Hogan Dining Hall in Towers and to purchase certain meal combos in Options, The Incline and Campus Market. Buying entry to Towers in cash at lunchtime costs $8.95, while $6 can purchase an entree, a drink and one or two sides at Options or The Incline, according to an employee in Towers.

Despite this, there are 270 commuters with meal plans, according to David Manz, district manager of Parkhurst Dining.

Niko Kouknas, 23, a graduate assistant in the office of commuter affairs, explained that some commuters choose to purchase a meal plan because it is covered by certain financial aid packages.

“I always got one because they charge the meals to your account, so if you have financial aid that will pick it up,” he said.

Mike Richards, a multiplatform journalism major, said using a meal plan can be convenient sometimes.

“Sometimes when you commute you have to stay all day,” Richards said. “You can’t be running back and forth.”

The price of meal plans is established during the University’s annual budgetary process, according to Manz.

“The larger commuter meal plans have more meal blocks,” Manz said. “The larger plans receive a discount; the more meals, the greater the discount.”

However, even with the largest discount, commuters pay at least 10 percent more for each meal by purchasing the meal plan instead of paying in cash.

“They’re a rip-off,” said Fatima Aslam, 19, psychology and pre-med double major. Aslam said even the 45 meal swipes are “way too many,” since commuters might not eat on campus every day.

“They should have customizable plans, because honestly commuters don’t have time for [Towers],” Aslam said.

When students use meal swipes at Options or The Incline, the meal swipe often does not cover the full price of the meal, according to Richards.

“With meal swipes in options…you end up paying an extra couple dollars anyway in Flex,” Richards said.

Resident student plans all cost $2,596. In resident student plans, the starting price per meal swipe is $9.07.

If a resident purchases the Bronze meal plan — the plan with the most Flex and least swipes — for $2,596, they receive $300 in Flex and 175 meal swipes. This means the student is paying $13.12 per meal swipe.

Meal plans can be changed in the DU Card Center, room 210 of the Student Union.

Any unused block meals expire at the end of each semester, according to Duquesne Dining’s website. Unused Flex will carry over from from Fall to Spring semester, but resets every new academic year.

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