A university official announced changes for meal plan options are in the works for residential students, according to Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer Tim Philley.
The changes come after a series of discussions with students at open forum events last semester. Starting in the fall, students can expect tiered pricing for both room and board, Philley said.
“In addition to tiered pricing, ORU will introducing new meals plans along with additional services within dining services,” Philley said.
Currently, students have four options for their semester meal plan. The money for board ($2,381 per semester) is divided between meals in the university’s dining hall, commonly known as Saga, and Sodexo bucks.
Philley explained that the price of board accounts for the cost of food, cleaning all the facilities, equipment, supplies [napkins, cleaning supplies, etc], utilities, maintenance of the buildings and more.
In the public forums, some students expressed their desire for more options and choices when it comes to picking a suitable meal plan.
When senior engineering major Mike Wilson was a freshman, he couldn’t decide between the 14-meals-per-week and 10-meals-per-week plan.
“I was picking out a meal plan, and I wanted to see which meal plan was the best economically,” Wilson said.
He eventually decided neither plan suited him best.
“[17-meals-per-week] is your best bet as far as getting your money’s worth for what you paid for the semester,” Wilson said. “That’s under the assumption that you use up all your meals every week. Obviously nobody ever does.”
Wilson is not alone in his concern. Meal plan queries are one of the most common types of questions the admissions office fields from prospective students.
“I think once you get past the admittance stage…where I’m going to live and where I’m going to eat are the two biggest concerns,” said Director of Admissions Chris Belcher.
He added that prospective students and their parents are generally satisfied with ORU’s options.
“I would say they are pretty pleased that they have more than the cafeteria option and that there are other options on campus,” Belcher said.
Students like Wilson also cite price increases in places like the Deli versus static Sodexo buck options as another concern.
“I thought they were a tad pricey to begin with,” Wilson said. “My biggest question for Sodexo would be, ‘Where is the money going?’….There should be more compensation in the form of Sodexo bucks per meal plan.”
Philley attributed the price-rise to a consequence of national legislation.
“Market pricing is based on current prices in the local market, inflation in food and labor costs,” Philley said. “Currently the biggest impact in labor costs is due to the cost of benefits skyrocketing across the country related to the Affordable Care Act. Trickledown economics is simply that. The cost of food, cost of supplies, cost of fuel, cost of labor, all trickles down to consumer pricing.”
Students wanting to save money can take advantage of Eagle Bucks. Eagle bucks is a pre-paid flexible spending account attached to a student’s ORU ID card and are valid at more than 15 locations.
Students receive 13 percent off at Sodexo locations, and staff and faculty receive a 6 percent discount.
While the discount only works on campus and at CityPlex, surrounding businesses also accept Eagle Bucks as payment. The most recent business added was Mooyah’s.
“Sodexo has also done a really good job going outside the university and finding area restaurants who will take Eagle bucks,” Belcher said.
Administrators said that while they are constantly considering the best vendors options for students, they also need to keep the selection pool relatively small.
“We don’t want to open (Eagle Bucks) too big because we want to make it worth [business’] while,” said Lisa Bowman, director for auxiliary services. “There’s only so many slices of the pie and if we make it too broad people that do come on board won’t really benefit from it.”
Students can expect an upcoming official announcement of the meal plan changes.
“Details of these plans will be announced in the next couple of weeks,” Philley said.