There’s no question that college is expensive.
With an annual estimated cost of attendance for in-state residents being $29,728 before aid, the prices of tuition, housing, broad-based fees and meal plans are on every student’s mind as the new school year begins.
UB’s meal plan options make up a particularly large portion of a student’s financial burden. First-year students mainly feel the brunt of this with UB’s Flex 14 meal plan.
The Flex 14 plan, mandatory for first-year students living in residence halls, costs $3,410 per semester and includes 14 meals per week as well as 385 dining points.
“The Flex 14 is automatically assigned as it offers the student the security of knowing they have meals available for the week,” Raymond Kohl, Campus Dining & Shop’s marketing and communications director said. Kohl also mentioned that the Flex 14 allows first-year students to focus on other aspects of campus life.
Assuming that students use the maximum value of $11 per meal exchange for brunch, lunch and dinner over 16 weeks of school — 15 academic weeks and an extra week for move-in and finals — students lose out on $561 per semester. This amount only increases if students eat breakfast, which is worth $9.
The secret to getting the most value? Eating at UB’s dining centers.
Dining halls like C3 or Governors Dining Center include “globally inspired menus, action stations, healthy eating, special events and community,” Kohl said.
With dinner at a price of $18.65, these all-you-can-eat dining halls can cost as much as $7.65 higher than the $11 meal exchange value. While students using dining points can get a 25% discount, those with a meal plan get a better deal with a single meal swipe.
To break even, students should use at least 30 dining hall dinner swipes per semester, or one to two times per week.
The prices of meal plans have also increased from the 2021-22 academic year. The Flex 14 plan, which used to cost $3,250 for 14 meals and 400 dining points, has now increased by 5% to $3,410. This is due to “the dramatic rise in food costs and associated labor costs,” according to Kohl.
Inflation increased 8.5% between July 2021 and July 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Jasmin Yeung is an assistant news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org