Editorial: How much do you lose?


by Morgan Parrish, Staff Reporter

Do you ever think about how much money you waste on your meal plan every semester? I’m not just talking about the leftover boards you have at the end of each semester, but the unused dollars every time you use a board for something less than the $7 value.

All full-time residential students must sign up for one of the five meal plan options Simpson offers. Depending on which plan you select, you are looking to be charged approximately $1,600 per semester for your meal plan, no matter if you use your whole plan or not.

For a reminder, a “board” is worth $7 and will buy you one meal at the Pfeiffer Dining Hall, but you can use a board at other venues if you do not have enough “flex dollars.” Flex dollars are typically used for the food venues in Kent Campus Center because they aren’t worth a specific dollar amount; they cover the cost of whatever you purchase, just like “real” money.

So, what happens if you have leftover boards or flex dollars? Luckily, flex dollars will roll over to the next semester if you are signed up for a meal plan, but boards, you will ultimately lose if you do not use them all in the semester. This is one way you are losing money to the college. 

Remember when I said a board is automatically worth $7? When you use a board and purchase something less than $7, you lose all the remaining money. For example, if I were to go to Millie’s Coffee Shop to buy a $4 coffee and use a board,  I would not get refunded the additional $3, it’s essentially gone. 

Solutions for students to take advantage of their plan is to eat at the dining hall often to use the max value of boards, use boards early in the semester to ensure you don’t have any leftover at the end and attempt to use the max value of a board at venues in Kent. 

Students can also sign up for a meal plan with fewer boards and more flex, but it is hard to determine how much you will use in the semester, and no options have the choice of only buying flex dollars. There are solutions for students, but I believe the college should change the meal plans to avoid losing so much money.

I have several solutions for the college to make meal plans more reasonable for students. They could make it possible for boards to roll over to the next semester. They could eliminate boards, so students don’t have to worry about using the $7 value when not eating at the dining hall. They could refund students’ accounts for the amount of money they don’t use off their meal plan. They could have a meal plan option that only involves flex dollars, or they could even allow students to use leftover meal plan money at the bookstore. 

I know these solutions are more complex for the college than they seem. According to The Hechinger Report, colleges profiting off of dining services, which would include the meal plans, are part of how they sustain financial support for themselves. But there needs to be a middle ground to make it better for the students. 

Many students rarely eat at the dining hall, so they are forced to buy unwanted items when using a board to eat something less than $7 if they want to use the max value. Also, when students realize they have a ton leftover at the end of the semester, they are scrambling to buy a bunch of items they do not want just because they do not want to lose the money they spent on their meal plan. 

I don’t even want to attempt to do the math and figure out how much money I lose a semester off my meal plan, but I know it is a significant amount. Honestly, if the college didn’t require a meal plan for full-time students, there are a couple of semesters I wouldn’t have even signed up for one due to me purchasing groceries frequently.