Due to the recent temporary suspension of guest swipes, my attention was piqued to look at the inner workings of the meal plans. I did some research and calculations related to the price of a meal swipe in our meal plans versus the swipe price when purchased at Residential Dining, and I came to many inconsistencies in this price, beyond the issue of the guest swipe.
When trying to calculate the price of a single swipe in a meal plan, I received five different numbers—that is, each meal plan has a different price. Before that calculation, I used the three Flex-only meal plans to determine that one flex dollar costs $1.06. Knowing that constant, calculating the per-swipe price is basic algebra. Starting with the Yote Pack 55, my meal plan, the price per swipe is $10.73, which came as a shock to me. The Yote Pack 70 has a similar price, at $10.27. The next step in this meal plan model is the Yote Pack 120, with a price tag of $8.69, which is a decrease of 19% from the price in Yote Pack 55.
Why does the price per-swipe change in the first place? It’s not as if there’s a correlation between which meal plan someone has and how much they eat in one MUC visit. One could make a bang-for-your-buck argument, similar to the price per month in a gym membership: The more you buy, the cheaper the unit price. The meal plan situation differs in principle, though. If I’m not happy with any aspect of the gym, including the pricing model, I can cancel my membership. The same is not true for a meal plan because the University requires that I, a second-year student living on campus, have a meal plan. There is no opt-out of this system, even though the numbers get even grimmer from here.
Still remaining to be analyzed stands the model in which swipes renew weekly. To calculate the per-swipe of these plans, I simply multiplied the weekly swipes by sixteen, the number of weeks in a semester. In the Coyote 10, the magic number is $7.89, which is the closest of all to the ticket price of a meal swipe at the entrance of Residential Dining: $7.90. The lowest of all comes with the Coyote 17, at a massive bulk price of over $2,000 a semester. The per-swipe clocks in at $6.10, a whopping 43% decrease from the most expensive, my very own Yote Pack 55.
So, then, how do we survive in this meal plan landscape (or meal plan-dscape, if you allow my portmanteau)? Since Add-On Flex is dollar for dollar, compared to the $1.06 price in a meal plan, the best course of action (for “2nd year Brookman, Coyote Village and McFadden residents” [since the Paw Print isn’t available to on-campus students]) is the Paw Pride, offering $865.55 of Flex per semester, and completely bypassing the skewed pricing model of the swipe. This comes with a strategy: Do not use Flex to get into Residential Dining, use real cash, so you’re not losing money through the initial $1.06 exchange rate. Then, when you inevitably run out of Flex, either pay with cash from there on out, or augment your coffers with some Add-On Flex; either way is dollar-for-dollar. The lesson: the best way to get through the system is to be out of the system as much as possible.
Carson Sehr, sophomore English major