After nine months of review, University administrators have decided to make GW’s meal plan a cash-equivalent “flex points” system, scrapping meals entirely, said Al Ingle, associate vice president for business affairs.
Officially outlined for students for the first time on the residence hall intent-to-return form distributed throughout residence halls last week, the new plan will require on-campus freshmen, sophomores and juniors to participate.
“We felt that a dollar-for-dollar system would allow students more flexibility,” Ingle said. “Now they will be able to spend their money where they want, when they want.”
The new plan will offer four options, ranging in cost from $950 to $1,600 per semester, available to freshmen and sophomores. Two additional plans, $500 or $250 per semester, also will be offered to juniors and seniors.
Now in its third year, the school’s current meal program allows all students to select from four meal plans, which include 10, 14 or 19 meals per week, plus flex points, which are equivalent to cash and are used to purchase food at on-campus vendors. Under the same plan, resident sophomores may opt for a points-only plan and resident juniors and seniors are permitted to forgo the program entirely.
“Meal zones,” designated daily periods in which meal credits can be spent, will be phased out entirely under the new plan. Currently, if students do not spend their weekly meal credits during the available times, money does not roll over to the next week.
Points carry over from week to week and semester to semester within a single year. According to surveys conducted on behalf of the administration, students reported that “meal zones” were their primary complaint with the meal plan system, Ingle said.
Impetus to change the plan grew with this year’s addition of the Burger King franchise to J Street, Ingle said.
“Burger King was like a pilot program for us to see if a points-only franchise station would be well received,” he said. “The franchise, which did not accept meal credits, did very well.”
As a result, the administration plans to add similar franchises in J Street, the Marvin Center and Mitchell Hall as early as August. Possible offerings may include nationally known brands of pizza, soft pretzels, smoothies or bagels, Ingle said. He also said that because of franchise costs, students might encounter a five to 10 percent price increase in food at franchise stations.
Though the administration has yet to cement any deals with its food service provider Aramark Corporation, a decision should be reached by mid-February, he said.
Chris Voss, chair of the Student Association’s Dining Services Commission, said the meal plan changes reflect many of his organization’s recommendations to the administration.
“We wanted a lower point option for juniors and seniors, who we noticed were using debit dollars anyway to buy food,” he said, noting that it is cheaper for students to use points.
With the exception of the new requirement that juniors use the plan, Voss said he is pleased with the rest of the changes.
“We asked them to get rid of the meal times long ago, so I’m glad,” he said. “I just wish it would’ve been sooner, but overall I think the new plan really will benefit the students.”
Michael Petron, Marvin Center Governing Board chair, said he objects to juniors being required to purchase points.
“I don’t think juniors should have to be on it,” Petron said. “I don’t think they should get in the business of mandating three classes to the plan.”