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Don’t Like Your Meal Plan? Sue The College…

I must tell you that eating on a college campus is a pretty rewarding experience at most schools across the country. Colleges know that students take their food seriously and they have stepped up the menus to be more accommodating to all students regardless of dietary need. I visited a CDR (Center Dining Room in college talk) just the other day and I was amazed to see everything from pizza and burgers to salad, humus and stir fry. At the CDR, you get an unlimited supply of whatever you can eat (or carry) and the same goes for the soda and desserts.

Given that campus dining has evolved so nicely over the years, it is hard to believe that someone would be filing a lawsuit against a college because they are unhappy with their meal plan.  However, just recently, legal action was taken against Auburn University (Alabama) because some students are not too excited about their meal plans. It appears that they are ok with the quality of the food but they are disappointed with the cost. Specifically, they don’t like a new rule that was put into effect by the Auburn Trustees that makes a meal plan mandatory for all students attending the University. The mandatory food policy states that students living on campus must have a minimum of $995 in meal plan expenses each semester and commuter students must have $300 in meal plan costs.

The following is a statement from the law firm(s) representing the students:

“In these tough economic times, students and families struggle to sustain the cost of higher education,” the statement reads. “Many are using loans, work study and minimum-wage jobs to finance their education. They need not be further burden(ed) by being forced to enrich (food vendors) using the state power of a public university.”

My Opinion (for what it is worth)

It is not uncommon for colleges to require their residential students to be on some sort of meal plan at the University. It may cost more up front but in the long run it will be healthier and cheaper than any other fast food option that the student could encounter. What I find a little odd about Auburn’s Mandatory Meal Plan Policy is the fee they are imposing on non-residential students (commuters). My personal opinion is that these students are probably already trying to save a buck or two by not living on campus and the mandatory meal plan fee is counter intuitive to that goal. Auburn will probably be able to maintain their policy for residential students but my guess is that they will need to change the policy for commuter students in the near future. I just can’t see any foundation for that policy “sticking”.

This link represents Auburn’s response to the mandatory meal plan policy. They appear to put a good “spin” on their approach to meal plans.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of whether you go to Auburn or another college or university, the lesson to be learned from this situation is to look at ALL the costs associated with your educational experience at a specific institution. You may find that tuition is cheaper at one school verses another but if you start adding in all the ancillary expenses (like mandatory meal plans) you may find that the bottom line costs are more comparable from one school to the next.

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One Response to “Don’t Like Your Meal Plan? Sue The College…”

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  1. […] place to sleep and good food to eat usually tops that list. Every college is a little different on how they address the dining needs of their students, however, I think the following infographic should be very helpful in providing […]


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