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Opinion: New meal plan requirement disregards student wants, needs

Meal plans now required for Lakeside, Sutton residents 

Rollins is requiring all students who live on campus to buy dining plans next year, including students in Lakeside and Sutton. It is my belief that this requirement feeds off college students’ money in an unethical way, forcing them to dump more money into the college in exchange for a plan they won’t fully utilize.

The lowest meal plan offered costs $975 per semester and offers students $975 in dining dollars per semester. While it seems cheap compared to the other options– such as the Unlimited Plan ($3,195), 15 Swipe Plan ($2,975), and the Apartment 5 Swipes Full Plan ($1,950)– it doesn’t cover every meal students need.

My sister has a severe dairy allergy, so she wouldn’t be able to eat over half of the menu items at Dave’s Boathouse. Allergies and dietary restrictions are common, and those students who deal with food allergies will be stuck putting $975 per semester into a meal plan that doesn’t cover their needs.

According to the Official USDA Food Plans, in 2019, the average college-aged student spends approximately $163 monthly on food. If we break down the meal plan, students will be forced to spend an average of $244 monthly on food solely from on-campus dining sites, even though the plan might not cover students’ needs. This is impractical, especially for students who have conditions that make for complicated dining experiences.

The college normally tells students who have severe allergies and/or dietary restrictions to select rooms in Lakeside or Sutton because meal plans haven’t been required in those residential communities in the past. However, they are now.

Aside from students being limited by their allergies and dietary restrictions, the dining plan itself is pretty slim. Occasionally, there are new featured desserts and entrees available at Dave’s Boathouse for a limited amount of time, but that still leaves less than forty meal options. 

Those who choose to live in Sutton and Lakeside do so because of their ability to buy groceries and create their own meals. But when $975 of their food budget goes towards a meal plan, they won’t be able to spend that money to make healthier or preferred meals.

In a recent email, Residential Life and Explorations justified this meal plan requirement by stating that it lowered the price for housing in Sutton. The prices before the pandemic were roughly $500 dollars more than the 2020-21 school year prices, which sit between $9,750 and $10,500. This decrease in price happened over the last school year, which shows that Rollins can decrease housing prices without the need to create mandatory food plans.

Besides the financial aspect of this new meal plan requirement, it seems like the college is not treating upperclassmen like adults. College students should have control over their financial choices. Especially since on-campus housing will be required for the first three years of students’ college career, forcing a meal plan onto students doesn’t teach good financial habits, such as building credit and budgeting. 

The meal plan system for Lakeside and Sutton has worked consistently in the past, and most students are completely against the new requirement. The college administration says that they value their students, but if they do, they should listen to the student community.

The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of The Sandspur or Rollins College.

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