One week before students returned to campus, Southern’s President’s Cabinet decided to remove discounts and the administrative fee from student meal plans.
Prior to removal, discounts were applied at all food locations on campus, giving dorm students 40 percent off on their meals and commuter students 20 percent off.
This decision was made due to COVID-19’s impact on Southern’s campus. To make food services safer, the President’s Cabinet believed it would be in the students’ best interests to remove the discounts and fee, according to Verrill. This conclusion was based on the new Food Services CBOARD GET app.
The app allows students to order food, pick it up quickly and avoid contact with large crowds as much as possible. While it is a great way to help students feel safer picking up food, the app doesn’t have the appropriate technology to differentiate between dorm and commuter meal plans when attempting to pay.
Senior Vice President for Financial Administration Tom Verrill explained that because the app could not differentiate between the various meal plans on campus, the Cabinet decided to remove discounts altogether and return the $450 fee to the meal plan balance.
“It was last minute when we realized this app is not going to work well with the discounts,” Verrill said. “That was a primary driver. We felt these were important things for the students, and we were not able to accomplish them while having this structure. So we thought changing the structure was the best thing to do.”
Verrill said the new system may become permanent, but he’s not completely certain.
“Now that we have made the change, I believe this will be our structure moving forward,” he said.
To better understand the recent changes, Executive Director of Budgeting and Financial Analysis Douglas Frood explained why students had the discounts and administrative fee to begin with. Before the changes, commuter students could customize the amount they wanted on their meal plans and would receive a 20 percent discount when purchasing food from campus eateries.
For dorm students, there are three meal plan options: bronze, silver and gold. Each plan allows students to spend a different amount of money on meals for the semester and previously included a 40 percent discount for food purchases. The administrative fee was a $450 amount taken from the selected dorm meal plan that helped fund the cafeteria budget, according to Frood. To compensate for the money that was deducted, students would receive meal discounts based on their living arrangements on campus.
After the $450 deduction, the remaining balance left in the meal plan was for students to spend on food anywhere on campus. When added all together, the 40 percent discount students would receive throughout the semester would roughly equal the $450 fee that was taken. Essentially, the fee and discounts were put in place to fund the cafeteria while still allowing residents to get the full meal plan value. This enabled students to freely decide where they wanted to eat on campus while helping the cafeteria stay funded.
“We set an admin fee to say, ‘This is the fee that equates to the 40 percent off,’” Frood said. “We were attempting to make things flexible. We wanted to protect the financial situation of the café while allowing you, the students, some flexibility about how you wanted to spend those dollars.”