Points, as the monetary units the GW plan uses are called, revert back to GW and Aramark with the end of final exams prompting many students – especially those with a substantial amount left over – to ask why. The system set up by Aramark and GW is unfair to students and should be changed to allow for points to roll over into the fall semester.
The spectacle of students racing to finish their excess points buying groceries in bulk at Provisions Market or giving their GWorld cards to friends to use is amusing, but the annual scramble should not be necessary. Rolling points into the fall semester does not take money away from Aramark; it only delays the transaction of that money by a couple of months.
Hardest hit by disappearing points are often freshmen who are forced by University regulations to purchase the largest meal plan with the most points. This plan, which contains more than $1,600 worth of the tax-exempt meal points, provides an enormous amount of food – too much food for the average student. The cheaper option, more than $1,300, does not provide much relief for a student who may not need that much food. Further compounding the problem is the University’s decision to raise the mandatory minimum amount for meal plans that next year’s sophomores must buy – the same class now facing the loss of their current dining funds.
The current system forces students to spend points recklessly or lose them, advancing bad spending habits along the way. Encouraging students to use a card irresponsibly that spends what many students do not consider to be real money, only sets them up for failure in a similar arena: credit cards. Plus, by guaranteeing Aramark students’ money in the beginning of each year, GW gives no incentive to improve customer service if doing so will not improve Aramark’s bottom line.
Programs like Martha’s Table in which students use excess points to buy food they can donate to feed the homeless are noble initiatives, but they do not solve the problem. Students should be able to retain the money they put on their meal plans into the next academic year. Student leaders, including new Student Association President Roger Kapoor, who listed this issue as one he will solve while in office, should work to change the system. Perhaps by returning spending power to students, GW will encourage better student spending habits and better food service.