Last week, the University announced that it would begin requiring all on-campus resident students — including those who live in the townhouses — to have a meal plan. This is a change from the past, as townhouse students, who have full kitchens in their rooms, have not been required to have meal plans.
In response to this, some students who spoke with the Torch said that they’re changing their living plans for next year because they don’t want to be forced to purchase a meal plan — a sentiment that we can’t say we disagree with.
We asked the University about the change and they said approximately 65 percent of students in the townhouses usually enroll in a resident meal plan. Even still, the reasoning seems unclear and we’d like to get more answers.
This decision is taking away townhouse students’ choice when it comes to meal plans. And it doesn’t seem to make sense, given the fact that these students’ rooms are equipped with kitchens. For the 2016-2017 academic year, a double room costs $11,720 per year and a triple costs $10,520. Adding the meal plan tacks on at least an additional $4,300 per year.
This has the potential to cause an unnecessary financial strain on those students who would otherwise choose to cook their own meals or buy their meals from surrounding restaurants. If approximately 65 percent of students take a meal plan, the remaining 35 percent of students choose to go without one.
With the rising costs of college education, including room and board, the University should clarify the reasons for the change and the benefit of forcing students to enroll a meal plan. An additional $4,300 is no small number, especially for students supporting themselves. It also takes away autonomy from students. To live in the townhouses, students must have a certain GPA and be a junior or senior. Clearly they are meant for students who are not only older, but who are also dedicated to their studies. Among students, getting into the townhouses is considered a perk of being a good student and being an upperclassman — so why take away some of these students’ independence, and force them to take a meal plan?
Citing statistics on how many students take meal plans is not sufficient enough for imposing an extra cost on students living in the townhouses. Because of this, students are changing their minds about living arrangements for next year due to this announcement, so it’s clear that the choice of taking a meal plan factors into students’ final decision on whether to live in the townhouses. We’re calling on St. John’s to make the reasons for this requirement more clear — it’s what students and their families deserve.