Meal Plans at Many Colleges are Higher than the Cost a Typical Student would spend at Home

Rising prices of Meal Plans at Colleges are driving fee revenue at many Schools. Many states are holding back on Tuition increases due to pressure from states and recent double digit increases so they are looking to fees to help increase revenue. The Hechinger Report recently reported after an analysis of campus dining contracts from around the country, that colleges are charging students far more for each meal than the typical American spends to eat at home, helping drive the rising cost of higher education. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated it costs a single person an average of $3,989 for food per year, colleges typically charge about $4,500 for eight months. This is approximately 70 percent more per day to eat on campus than to cook and eat on their own at home.

Many colleges are now contracting out their food service contracts to outside vendors. Food service is now seen as a profit center at many schools.  In fact, part of what the companies earn goes back to the universities in the form of commissions, signing bonuses, and other payments. Invitations for proposals made by colleges and universities to food-service contractors, not usually noticed by the public, show that most expect to make money from their students’ meal plans.  For many students, more expensive meal plans mean more borrowing and tough decisions about whether to trade convenience for cheaper living off campus. Many schools also require freshmen to live on campus and to buy an expensive meal plan, while older students may have some choice of plan.

There is not much your students can do about this but it is something they and their parents should be aware of when comparing schools and evaluating the costs.