University’s meal plan system differs from other campuses’

While St. Edward’s University uses a meal plan system that requires students to pay for each food item individually, other universities with similar student sizes have different meal plan options.

St. Edward’s has a contract with Bon Appétit, which serves food in each of the dining halls on campus. Before the beginning of the school year, students purchase their meal plan amount in whole and then spend that amount of money on dining.

Nearing the end of the year, commuter students and even some on-campus students are completely out of meal plan, and other on-campus students with large meal plans are left buying in bulk in order to spend their excess amount of meal plan money.

“Students here either have too much meal plan or nothing at all, there’s no in between,” freshman Delfina Barbiero says. “I wish meal plan money could be used as Topper Tender.”

Part of the problem is that the meal plans are drastically spread apart. Freshmen living in residence halls must purchase a meal plan of $2,165 or $1,730. However, once freshman year is over, students also have meal plan options of $1,190 or $650 per semester.

“At the end of each spring semester, any unused balances in meal plans (not Topper Tender) are forfeited. This allows St. Edward’s and its food service provider to reinvest in equipment and facility enhancements,” Associate Vice President for Financial Affairs, Barton G. Glaser says.

Full-time commuter students and students living in the campus apartments must have a $115 meal plan each semester.

“It’s really worthless. You run through (the meal plan) in about a month,” sophomore commuter student Ryan Wheeler says regarding the least expensive commuter meal plan available. “It makes it harder, especially when there are days where you have to stay longer.”

While St. Edward’s meal plan system charges students per individual food items, students at other small universities in and out of Texas have other meal plan systems available.

Meal swipes, or just “swipes,” are an alternative that are used at other universities throughout the nation. The University of Iowa’s website describes swipes as a meal plan with a “pre-set number of meals” paid for before the school year.

Students then use their student ID card to pay for a meal at a set price where students can get as much as food as they’d like, instead of paying for each individual food item like at St. Edward’s.

Back in Texas at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio, students also use “swipes.”

“We use swipes, but also have dining dollars that can be used to buy Chick-Fil-A and Sammie’s (which is like Subway). For (those) with the lowest meal plan, we usually clear out pretty well,” Emily Rodriguez, a UIW student, said.

Glaser adds, “Many schools have moved away from the all-you-can-eat ‘swipes’ meal plan model in favor of the a-la-carte declining balance method. This move has largely been for conservation reasons associated with the large amount of food waste under the all-you-can-eat dining model.”

“I would rather pay for each individual item. Although a set amount for a buffet of food seems nice, I feel some students would not take advantage of it,” freshman Alison Mojica says. “Personally, I don’t eat a lot here at school so it would be wiser to pay for each thing I get.”

“Bon Appetit is always looking to provide a wider range of dining options for the students at St. Edward’s. We continually review opportunities to add food service options that are financially viable for the university and its food service provider,” Glaser says, adding that students should feel free to call St. Edward’s General Manager for Bon Appetit, Michael Smith with suggestions at 512-428-1016.

As of now, it is unlikely that there will be any drastic changes made to the meal plan system or Bon Appétit menu at St. Edward’s for next school year.