Should meal plans be forced upon freshmen?

By Brad Brown, Managing Editor

For many incoming freshmen, going to college is emblematic of a newfound freedom and, perhaps, a break away from obsessively protective helicopter parents. However, year after year, the university seems to keep infantilizing the residential college system for freshmen.

From expensively rigid meal plans and an on campus residency requirement to having their academic schedules handed to them without any choice, freshmen have limited freedoms in their first year compared to the rest of the student body.

Like many colleges, EWU forces their students to purchasing meal plans. With five different plans that range from $1099 to $1950 per quarter, it would appear that students have many options to work around their eating habits and budget, however, that’s not the case.

Walking into Baldy’s, Tawanka Main Street Dining or any of the other dining options on campus and having to weigh the options of the same food over and over again can get old very quickly.

“We do kind of get tired of the food because it’s repeated, especially when it’s not [the] types of food we’re used to,” said EWU freshman Mireya Solano. “We’re so used to our home food and this is so much different and hard to get used to.”

While most of the meal plans are centered around spending à la carte dollars and meal counts in university-sanctioned food providers, they also provide Eagle Flex dollars that can be spent at various local business around Cheney. Sounds like a good deal right? Well it is, until the dollar amounts become less arbitrary to the incoming freshmen.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the average 19 to 50 year old male spends $299.10 a month on food with a moderate food plan, while women on average spend $255.00. Given that each quarter is roughly around three months long, most students not in any meal plan would likely spend under $1000 in any given quarter.

With that being said, the lowest meal plan offered at EWU is the “Silver” plan, which costs students $1099 per quarter. This plan isn’t even meant to cover all of food costs a student may have.

While the school’s mindset of providing easily accessible food options might be great for the hungry freshman who even struggles to make ramen noodles, it’s not so great for their wallet.

“I think it’s expensive,” said Solano. “I think we could definitely be saving up money, but I mean we still have to buy our own things and make our own food.”

Spending Eagle Flex dollars to buy healthier food from local businesses in Cheney is an option, but also isn’t financially wise. With the two least expensive meal plans (Silver and Gold) only offering $25 and $50 for Eagle Flex, there isn’t a whole lot that student can do with that money. However, most expensive Platinum meal plan gives students $200 in Eagle Flex money, but comes at a ridiculous cost of $1950 per quarter, which roughly equals the cost of tuition for a full-time student.

Forcing students to have a meal plan is unfair and expensive. These meal plans cost students more than what they would spend if they simply prepared their own food and ate out on occasion. For this reason, meal plans should remain an option for students who want them, but they should not be forced upon students who don’t.

The same goes for requiring freshmen to live on campus. While it’s clear there are many reasons why students would want to live in the residence halls; the safety, convenience of living on campus and meeting other students are hard to compete with, the higher cost of living on campus shouldn’t be imposed on freshmen.

EWU should be in the business of providing resources to students, not imposing them. Mandating where freshmen live and controlling what they eat shouldn’t fall into the equation. These options should be provided, but not mandated.