UNH intends for students to get the most out of meal plans
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
As the semester comes to a close, many students find themselves scrambling to use their remaining dining swipes that they purchased at the start of the academic year. Despite a variety of meal plans to choose from, some of these students will still end up with unused swipes.
Of New Hampshire’s three largest colleges (Keene State, Plymouth State and the University of New Hampshire), UNH is the only school to offer an unlimited meal plan. The unlimited plan is ideal for students living on campus that eat all of their meals to the dining halls. But for students who choose to leave the dormitories and move into an off-campus apartment or house, accessibility to the dining halls is usually limited. This is why there are other plans available for purchase that offer less swipes for, of course, less money.
If students find themselves going to the dining hall more often than they expected, they have the option to buy more swipes. But if students don’t use all of their swipes by the end of the semester, the swipes do not transfer over and instead “disappear.”
Although the software used to manage the meal plans is purged each year in order to input new information, Assistant Director for Business Affairs Rick MacDonald remembers the amount of unused dining swipes to be relatively small.
“We have, on occasion, analyzed year end numbers and if I remember correctly, the unused meals were less than one percent of the total sales,” MacDonald said.
But even though the percentage of total unused meals is relatively small, some students still find themselves mismanaging their meal plans and ending the semester with unused swipes. Rob Kelly, a senior living in a house on Young Drive, purchased the meal plan consisting of 150 meal swipes last semester, but only used 97 of them.
“I ended up cooking food at my house way more than I thought that I would,” Kelly said. “I started going to the dining hall more at the end of the semester so I could use more of my swipes, but I didn’t even get close to using the 150 that I had available.”
Glenn Law, a senior living in Park Court, had the opposite problem.
“I flew through my swipes at the beginning of the semester so I ended up having to buy more,” Law said. “But during the second half of the semester I didn’t go to the dining halls as much, so I ended up with a bunch of unused swipes.”
UNH currently offers four commuter plans of 150, 100, 75, or 50 meals per semester. Although there are some complaints about the system, MacDonald does not think there is any problem.
“I think the important thing to remember is that we increase our sales year after year,” MacDonald said. “People wouldn’t continue to purchase plans if they were not considered a value.”
While UNH allows students to use their swipes at any point over the course of the semester, Keene State has found it more efficient to offer weekly plans.
“At Keene, we have three different Meal Plans at 19 Meals Per Week, 12 Meals Per Week, and 5 Meals Per Week,” Josef Quirinale, General Manager of Dining Services, said. “As opposed to ‘missed’ meals accumulating over an entire semester, the Keene State meal plan is based on weekly meal availability.”
But just like at UNH, if a student does not use their swipes by the end of the week, they do not carry over.
“If a meal plan holder does not use their meals by the end of the week here at Keene, yes, they have missed the opportunity to take advantage of the meals available to them for that period,” Quirinale said.
Ryan Martin, a junior at Keene State, is very happy with the system.
“It’s good,” Martin said. “I use all my swipes. I do wish there was a 21 meal plan though, just so I could have three meals on the weekend.”
Plymouth State, while having a meals-per-semester system that is very similar to UNH’s meals plan system, offers five commuter plans instead of four. They also allow students to purchase additional blocks of 15 meals as needed in case they run out, whereas the lowest amount of swipes available for purchase at UNH is 50.
“We try to provide the students with information so they can make good decisions and get on the ideal plan for them,” David Carpentiere, Director of Technology for Residential Services at Plymouth State, said.
But while many students at UNH do often times head home for the summer with unused swipes on their account, most are happy with the variety of plans that the university offers.
“While I do have some complaints about the dining system, I think that UNH offers enough options so that students shouldn’t get caught in too much of a rut,” senior Sean Mitchell said. “I think the pros definitely outweigh the cons.”