UHD can better serve students by offering more meal plan options

Neha Dronamraju

I bought UT’s resident meal plan, which offers 1800 Dine In Dollars and 200 Bevo Bucks, over the summer. After the purchase, I began preparing for the busy school year. Once it started, I didn’t have time to budget my meal plan.

Now, halfway through the second semester, I’m in a precarious position as I have more meals to eat than my Dine In Dollars can buy.

UT currently offers three meal plans. One of those is for residents and only caters to one particular appetite. University Housing and Dining should offer multiple meal plans to cater to all students’ eating habits.

The current resident meal plan uses a declining balance process. Instead of allotting students with a fixed number of meal card swipes per day, the plan provides 1800 Dine In Dollars that students can spend in any UHD location as they please. This puts immense pressure on students to budget their meal plans.

To combat this issue, UHD should let students choose the meal plan that’s best for them from a wider variety of plans. 

According to UHD’s director of dining Rene Rodriguez, there are pros and cons to UT’s current meal plan.

“It has served its purposes, because I believe students appreciate the fact that they have complete control over where they’re spending their money,” Rodriguez said. “It hasn’t worked when students don’t balance how and where they’re spending their money.”

Rodriguez also said UHD plans to introduce two unlimited meal plans next year — one for residents and one for commuters — that would allow students to buy as much food as they want. 

An unlimited meal plan is a luxury, accompanied by a cost that some students are not willing to pay. In addition to these two unlimited options, UHD should offer more meal plans at various price points for
students who don’t necessarily need an unlimited plan.

Juliet Leger, computational engineering freshman, believes that UHD could cater to more students by providing a wider range of meal plans.

“I know people who run out of Dine In Dollars too early, and I also know people who have them left over at the end of the year, and neither are being served well by the meal plans,” Leger said. “I think there should be meal plans for those types of people and everyone in-between.” 

What Leger advocates for is being implemented at other universities. The University of Houston, for example, offers a total of 11 meal plans at various price points. Some of these plans conform to the declining balance system, and others run on a swipe system.

Next fall, UHD will offer five total meal plans: two for residents and three for commuters. UT can implement a more expansive system with plans that include unlimited meal swipes, meal swipes five days a week and plans that are limited to a set amount of declining balance dollars. 

Introducing a variety of declining balance and swipe-based plans — with some plans offering a larger budget than others — would better serve a wide range of diners. 

Dronamraju is a public health freshman from Dallas.