Hannah Wade / The Daily Gamecock

Opinion: The mandatory meal swipes negatively affect first-year students

Carolina Food Co. provides an excellent service to students. Truly, we at USC have better on-campus dining than other schools in the state with our university being named one of the top 25 best colleges for food. But, there are various problems with the meal plans that disadvantage and harm students, especially freshmen on required plans. 

Freshmen at USC are required to have at least the Garnet 14 Silver plan that offers 14 meals a week for about 19 weeks — the plans begin and end a few days prior to and after classes — and costs a minimum of $1,687 per semester. This adds up to a total of 266 meals offered for the spring semester at $6.25 per meal after subtracting the $25 meal plan dollars. 

Sounds pretty great, right? Not totally. 

First of all, it’s surprisingly hard to use up all of the meal swipes one has in a week. Since college students are on such strange schedules, sometimes it can be hard to get to a dining hall before closing time or be close enough to campus to pick up something to eat. In addition, with free food or cheap food offered at many events on campus and such wonderful local off-campus restaurants, students with required meal plans are forced to worry about the opportunity cost of not using another meal swipe. That’s not to mention that not eating from Carolina Food Co. restaurants over university holidays adds up to $125 worth of food that was paid for but not eaten by students.

The fact that the school is requiring freshman to buy two meals from them everyday, regardless of whether they are eaten or not, harms students.

The weekly expiration of meal swipes adds stress to student life. At the end of each Wednesday, I realize I have wasted 12 or more dollars because I did not force myself to get lunch or coffee at an on-campus location a few more times during the week. 

The desire to make use of these excess meal swipes at the end of the week encourages students to buy foods, like ice cream, that they wouldn’t have purchased otherwise to feel like they didn’t waste money, which leads to unnecessary and unhealthy decisions.

The university requiring that freshmen have meal plans has created a monopoly that ensures Carolina Food Co. gets more money than the value of the service they offer. If they were more student-oriented rather than just out to look prestigious compared to other universities, then students would feel less ripped off by university food prices. 

It’s not about shoving a survey into our faces about our dining experience, Carolina Food Co., it’s about knowing students and providing your services to them at a fair price. 

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