Students question fall meal plan price increases

by Sasha Dudding | 8/19/13 10:00pm

by Brett Drucker and Brett Drucker / The Dartmouth

Prices were increased to help offset the costs of an enlarged College operating budget, and the new plans may benefit students who currently overspend their allotted DBA, Dartmouth Dining Services director David Newlove said. Despite student complaints, Dartmouth's meal plan costs are comparable to those at some other Ivy League universities.

Luke Naman '15 said he did not see the need for more DBA, and knew many students who do not use the full amount allotted in their meal plans. Students who do, he added, will now have to pay more money for the meal plan than they receive in DBA.

"I am not surprised, but I am still upset," he said. "Before, people went negative but paid what they went under."

Previous DBA totals varied from $75 for the SmartChoice20 and BlockChoice180 plans to $875 for SmartChoice5, SmartChoiceOC and BlockChoice45. Under the new options, DBA will range from $100 to $920.

As meal plans vary in number of swipes, the amounts of DBA as well as the different dollar amounts allotted to swipes at different DDS establishments, determining the real cost of a meal can be difficult.

"In general, the meal price increases are designed to confuse students," Andrew Li '15 said.

Students frequently have problems with both overspending and under-spending, and many said there should be plans to cater to both issues.

"There are already people who have too much DBA left at the end of the term and people who are going negative, so this doesn't help either group," Diana Salsbury '15 said.

Matt Mahoney '15 agreed, saying that he overspent by $100 on the previous meal plans, he knew people with both too much and too little DBA at the end of the term.

Students expressed frustration at the price increase's impact application to those who may not need extra DBA.

Brendan Goldrick '15 said that while he tends to spend more DBA than allotted by his meal plan, the total cost only rises by the amount he overspends under the current system. He criticized the difference between the new plans' higher costs and the smaller rise in DBA, adding that there are other ways to help students who overspend.

Dartmouth students' annual expenses will now range from $5,394 for SmartChoice20 or BlockChoice180 to $4,710 for SmartChoice5 or BlockChoice45. Students who live off campus are eligible for the SmartChoiceOC plan, which will cost $2,730 annually.

Undergraduates at Yale University pay between $6,070 and $6,216 per year, while Princeton University students pay between $3,225 and $5,860.

Brown University's meal plans range from $1,440 to $4,420, while Harvard University's cost around $5,448. Columbia University students pay $4,868 their freshman year, then choose from plans that cost between $1,994 and $4,420 in subsequent years. At the University of Pennsylvania, first-year students pay $4,592 and upperclassmen pay between $1,880 to $4,592.

Cornell University undergraduates are offered four traditional meal plans, and some students can choose plans in the West Campus house system or through the debit meal plan system. The prices for the traditional plans range from $6,460 for the "Golden Bear" plan to $4,450 for the "Bear Basic" plan.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: Aug. 20, 2013

**The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Harvard's meal plan is included in tuition. It in fact costs around $5,448.*