When living at the University dining halls, students have a choice of four meal plans that work on a weekly basis.
12 Classic Meals/15 Café Credits, 10 Classic Meals/45 Café Credits, Maximum Classic Meals (47 Classic Meals) and finally All Café Credits (130 Café Credits).
Like many freshmen, Claire Sullivan struggles with her meal plan, unsure how to spend all of the credits she has. Sullivan is on the 10/45 Plan.
“I feel like I waste them,” Sullivan said. “A lot of my friends go to 57 and buy all the snacks they can.”
Her friend bought two pound bags of Cheetos just to get credits off his card, so like others, they feel like they waste them. 57 is a store in Ikenberry Commons that allows students to shop like they are at a grocery store. Other locations, such as Chomps and Penn Station, operate in this format as well.
To prevent losing money, it is vital to research which meal plan to select. Students do not understand the way they work when selecting, and this leads to them losing what they may consider a significant amount of money. Sullivan faces these struggles currently, a problem most freshman do not anticipate facing.
“My dad chose it for me because it was the most affordable,” Sullivan said.
With 45 cafe credits, that’s $45 to spend at the aforementioned locations.
Cafe credits roll over at the end of every week until it reaches $90, meaning that students must spend them in order to prevent the money from going to waste.
“Tuition here is so expensive anyways,” Sullivan said. “You have a set amount of money going into your card so you might as well spend it.”
In result, students spend money on snacks they do not necessarily need. Not every dorm has a place to spend these credits, making it so they have to go to another dorm to spend them. However, cafe credits can be spent on meals once a student runs out.
“It has a lot to do with population, what they’re in close proximity to and walking distance,” Dawn Aubrey, Associate Director of Housing for Dining Services, said. Instead of a store, dorms like LAR/Allen have other features. “That’s why we invested in Field of Greens. Investing in the facility depending on the personality and what’s been asked for.”
Field of Greens is an option in LAR, meant for vegan friendly meals.
Not all students find that their meal plans are going to waste.
“I don’t feel like I’m wasting it because I’m covered by financial aid,” freshman, Janina Rojas, said.
Despite not having problems with it herself, Rojas does see how it can be an issue for others.
“But for other people, if you’re gonna spend the same amount of money on [food] outside [of the dorms], you might as well spend it on that food [instead of spending it] eating at the dining hall,” Rojas said.
Some students find the meals to be overpriced and the sizes too large; however, there’s a rhyme and reason for how the prices are determined.
“One is to make sure you’re eating,” Aubrey said. “It’s also teaching you how to budget, but it’s really to make sure they’re used and that you’re budgeted on a daily basis.”
Meal plans, while important, are not always the first thing thought about when coming to Illinois. But to prevent being stuck in a situation that leads to a loss of money, it’s important to not only research the different options, but see what each and every dining hall has to offer.