Staff Editorial: Meal prices too high

NW Staff

As college students, we are expected to be frugal when it comes to our food choices. NMU is making this task quite difficult, however, as on-campus students must pay up to three times as much as non-students or commuters when eating in Northern’s cafeterias.

Without a meal plan, an all-you-can-eat lunch or dinner at the Marketplace or Wildcat Den costs $6.95. If the value of the student meal plans is examined with this information in mind, it’s clear that students aren’t getting their money’s worth.

Northern offers three meal plans to on-campus students. An unlimited plan allows anytime access to the dining halls, another plan allows a student to purchase 14 meals per week and another allows them to get five per week. Varying amounts of Dining Dollars are included in the three plans.

NMU’s policy requires all students living in the dorms to purchase a meal plan. And while the value of the unlimited plan is fully dependent on how many times a given student will head to the cafeteria each week, the other two plans are not at all cost-effective.

A student with the 14-meal plan this semester paid $1788 to the university. If the Dining Dollars are factored out of the equation, the cost of each meal would be $9.87. Using the same logic, each meal in the five-meal plan is worth $19.31. This is $12.36 more than one would pay without a plan.

It isn’t unusual for college students to pay higher-than-average rates for meal plans that they are essentially forced to have. Universities across the state of Michigan have widely varying meal plan prices. Grand Valley State University offers a plan in which students pay $3.24 per meal, while Ferris State offers a plan in which students pay $22.50 per meal. While Northern’s most expensive per-meal pricing doesn’t quite reach the level of Ferris, it comes close enough to merit serious consideration by Dining Services.

As Dining Services contemplates the meal plan prices for next year, they should consider the needs of the students. To appeal to off-campus students and community members, NMU offers separate plans in which prices range from $4.75 to $6.25 per meal. Yet the students being forced to purchase plans are paying way more.

The North Wind understands that there is a clear business side to university life and that Dining Services must struggle to make a profit in these tough economic times, as well. But the students shouldn’t be the only ones saddled with that burden.