Diana Kugel: Eat your heart out, GW

After a whole week of endless buffets in Cancun, little bakeries in Europe or mom’s home cooking, it is of no surprise that returning to a daily diet of Quiznos and Chick-fil-A is slightly less than appealing. However, those of you who spent spring break visiting friends at other colleges are probably embracing GW’s dining options with open arms right about now.

We are college students. According to every college movie ever made, that should mean that we are collectively surviving on an infinite supply of Ramen noodles, Easy Mac and Diet Coke. But if you stop and think about it, we will probably never have more dining options so readily available to us again in our lives. Just on campus, there are almost 30 venues that accept GWorld. And for those who are willing to venture a block or two further, there are more than 50 additional choices. Not bad, huh?

Many other schools that have more traditional dining halls and meal plans offer only a few places that students can dine at. While the menu obviously changes, how many ways are there to make a sandwich or grilled chicken? I’ve heard more than one visiting student from another college enviously proclaim that they wish their school had as many places to eat at as GW offers.

As great as this all is though, there is still a major flaw with the GWorld system. Basically, if students wish to only use GWorld to pay for food, they are forced to eat out three meals a day, seven days a week. While traditional dining halls are notorious for the creative license that they take with their food, at least it somewhat resembles a home-cooked meal. At GW, those students that need or want to cook for themselves have to use their own money to pay for groceries, while their GWorld account sits virtually untouched.

This may sound like an exaggeration, but I know of a number of people that have been struggling with this all year. My suitemate tries her best to eat healthy and cooks almost every night. She spends about $50 a week on groceries, but has only managed to spend about $300 on her GWorld over the course of the year, leaving her with more than 3,000 effectively useless dollars.

No matter how many venues accept GWorld, there is no way to be able to accommodate everyone. So here’s an idea: let people pick where they want to spend their money, or at least some of their money. I know as well as anybody that if students were allowed to use their GWorlds as ATM cards and were left to their own devices, there are those that would go through an entire semester’s worth of money in two days.

But what about a happy medium? Let’s say that students would be allowed to withdraw $25 or so worth of cash from their GWorld accounts each week. This would give students the flexibility to buy at least some groceries and take care of other expenses such as Metro fare to and from jobs or internships, while at the same time not giving them the leeway to do too much damage.

It is clear that the first protest from parents and administrators would be that students would abuse this privilege and squander money on less-than-necessary items. But if students cannot be trusted to be able to manage such a small sum of money, how can we ever be expected to budget for ourselves after we leave college?

Also, plenty of students don’t actually think of GWorld money as being real money. Many just swipe the card with the mentality that “it’s just GWorld.” Forcing students to deal with “real money,” at least on a miniscule scale, would be a step toward teaching fiscal responsibility.

Such a change would take plenty of time and mountains of paperwork. It would also mean the school might suffer some profit loss if students shop at locations unaffiliated with GW. But in the end, it would be extremely beneficial to students, both in allowing us to buy what we need and in teaching money management skills. And ultimately, if we screw up with a little bit of money during the week, it won’t mean declaring bankruptcy.

– The writer, a freshman majoring in psychology, is Hatchet contributing opinions editor.

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