The Need for Lower Meal Plan Options


Fern Dining Hall in the Kessel Student Center.

Anna Giacalone, Contributing Writer

For many students, the end of a semester can be a very stressful time. There are finals to study for, final essays to finish writing, and, for some students, the threat of running a meal plan dry. While there are certainly many students that will find that last fear far too relatable, there are also plenty of students who will often come nowhere close to emptying out their swipe card.

However, there is no real balance between these two types of students; regardless of actual usage, all Westchester freshmen and sophomores must begin their semesters with the same $1800 meal plan.

While there is not a clear reason as to why this balance is required, there is also very little reasoning behind these high meal plans to begin with. As stated within the university’s official policies, Pace is required to provide meal plans to students, but there is nothing that states that the university must provide such high meal plans. The issue here is that students who do not use all of their meal plans cannot apply for a reduction unless they have earned 64 credits and have a remaining balance of over $500 from previous semesters. Therefore, regardless of actual usage, these students must take out $1800 meal plans every semester as per university policy.

These policies also create a huge headache for students with dietary restrictions that cannot eat at the dining hall. Students with medical or religious dietary restrictions that cannot be properly met by dining services can apply for reductions or exemptions from the standard meal plan. However, to apply for a reduction or an exemption, a student must first meet with the Director of Dining Services before submitting official forms and letters from a licensed physician or a religious leader. These steps must also be completed within the first two weeks of a semester and an exemption will not be automatically renewed each academic year.

It can be extremely difficult and taxing for a student to complete all of these steps at the very start of the semester. However, even with this process in place, there is no guarantee that a reduction or an exemption will occur. Not to mention, even if a reduction or exemption is approved, there is no guarantee that the same will be approved in the future.

As such, this high meal plan as the norm raises a lot of issues. Students who do not use the majority of their meal plans have no real options to lower their meal plans until they have already poured $7,200 into their nonrefundable and nontransferable accounts. Additionally, students who have a legitimate need for lower meal plans can have a difficult time getting their meal plans lowered.

While there are plenty of students who use up all or most of their meal plans in one semester, the high price tag certainly should not be the norm. If students were allowed to pick a lower meal plan, those who get a lot out of their meal plans could choose to increase the cost based on their spending habits. However, the current practice setting the cost at high levels without any alternate options is not what is best for the student body.