Many St. Thomas University students were disappointed to receive the final word that their school will roll out a new dining program in September after holding off on the switch this year. The delay is part of the reason STU projects a huge deficit coming for food services.
“I was against the plan that they we’re going to put in effect for this year and it looks like the exact same thing,” said Kyla Mansfield, a second-year STU student.
The details of the all-you-care-to-eat plan were unveiled last week in an email to students. A new food vendor is to open in the future common area that is now the George Martin Hall chapel. Student I.D. cards will record both the number of visits to the cafeteria, and an additional “STU Dollars” account for purchasing food outside of the cafeteria. Meal plans range from 10 to unlimited cafeteria visits per week, and cost between $2,900 and $3,600.
The university projects a $279,000 deficit on food services and residences, which has much to do with declining residence rates.
When the university postponed it’s switch to all-you-care-to-eat cafeterias amid push-back from the community this summer, a subsidy was added to the contract that would see STU pay an unknown amount to provider Aramark for each on-campus student below 700.
Last December, there were only 472 students in residence, short of the 585 projected in this years budget, and down from 638 in 2012. The low occupancy rate also adds lost residence fees to the deficit.
Aramark is in charge of its own profits and losses after the subsidy.
“The costs and benefits of both approaches were considered,” St. Thomas communications director Jeffrey Carleton wrote in an email.
“Under the [all-you-care-to-eat] meal plan approach, there will no longer be a subsidy to Aramark regardless of the number of students in residence, thus this will reduce the university’s expenditures relating to food services.”
Mansfield is a Rigby Hall resident and plans to remain there next year because it is less expensive and less complicated than renting off-campus.
She feels the changes will make things more difficult for her. Rather than the cafeteria working around her schedule, she will have to work around its schedule.
The Forest Hill Dining Hall, in Rigby, will close from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. At George Martin Hall, the dining hall may halt service for 20 minutes to transition between meals.
Off-campus student Phillippe Ferland says will avoid the cafeteria next year.
“I’m kind of upset because I usually use the cafeteria just to hang out and get whatever food I wish, not something that’s already provided and sort of forced upon you.”
Those without a meal plan will be able to access the cafeteria using other methods of payment, but Ferland says the entry price, which tops out at $13.50 tax included for dinner, is too high.
“Unless I’m really hungry, I’m not going to pay $7 or something for breakfast,” he said.