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The goal behind creating the new meal plan system was to help students avoid going on financial suspension due to unpaid PrinBill balances resulting from meal card add-ons. There was a substantial number of students and parents receiving large charges at the end of the year which impacted their continuing enrollment. This change puts the responsibility of having money on PrinCards on the individual student during the term rather than the accounting office at the end. Many students have not found this change to be simple.
In years past, students were able to swipe their PrinCard without worrying about their account. Everyone started out with the traditional budget, and if a student overspent, $100 would be automatically deposited into his or her account. That safety net that kept accounts permanently solvent required the accounting office to perpetually track student spending to bill accordingly. With approximately 500 students at the College, plus the student populations of the St. Louis campuses, the accounting staff was spread thin.
As it stands now, the new meal plan has two accounts. The primary meal Plan account applies to the dining room and the Pub, with four buy-in levels to choose from. The secondary “Plus” account is usable at all these same venues, but is meant for the Store in the Student Center. At the beginning of each term, $100 is added to this account for every student.
When the dining services department collected data to propose an accommodating system, they found that the average student spent approximately this same amount per term. This was, however, before the C-Store and the late bookstore came as a packaged item. Students couldn’t use their PrinCard for bookstore purchases, so that didn’t factor into the amount that they spent at the C-Store.
Data is not yet available about the Store’s income, but senior Cooper Stock, a Store employee, indicated that this was a significant discrepancy.
“The problem right now is that students are buying their school supplies and midnight snacks with the same $100 on that second account,” he said. “A few people have come in and put hundreds of dollars on the account, but a lot have $10 left and try to make that $10 last for as long as possible.”
The outright effect has been slower traffic in the Store, and therefore much less income which goes its record of solid profits. The increased prices don’t help either, but, unfortunately, that can’t be helped.
“I wish I could put money from my dining room account into my store account” Stock added. Some students have tried to make a case for transferring money from their meal plan account to the plus account.
This is not a viable option, however, because the traditional-level meal plan is the bare minimum that every student needs to pay in order for dining services to be operable, meaning food, shipping, dishes, etc. If students pay less than this amount, dining services loses functionality.
If students selected a level higher than the traditional, they can adjust it for the next term if they submit a request by contacting any dining services managers or full-time student dining cashiers before Thanksgiving break. In the meantime, they can add extra money into their Plus accounts. Students may use cash or credit to deposit money into their current Plus account.
Nacewicz and senior Derrick Fleming, student body vice president, plan to discuss with Dean of Administration Karen Grimmer how this method could be improved to be more convenient. One item in particular would be to provide the option of a multi-level buy-in for the Plus account, like the meal plan account, but in smaller amounts. This offers the potential to have students’ budgets finalized before coming to campus without risking a strenuous workload for the accounting office.
At this point, improvements to the meal plan are in the early stages of being proposed, but dining services, as well as student government, are always looking for suggestions to better meet student needs.
CORRECTIONS: The printed version of this article erroneously stated that accounting staff reductions impacted the decision to implement the modified meal system. Lance Thornton, Trey McCartt, Mary Odhiambo, Paul Wagner, Brian Day, Carol Davidson, Catherine Wiegand, Tanya Ferguson, and Pauline Scott may be approached to add money into Plus accounts. All purchases made on a student card receive the 33 percent discount non-packaged items.