Due to high student demand, the Residence Hall Association and UCSB Dining Services are currently considering the implementation of “rollovers” in student meal plans.
The discussion began last quarter after Associated Students On-Campus Rep Nathaniel Wood-Wilde presented a student survey to RHA President Jared Goldschen, Dining Services Director Judith Edner and Housing & Residential Services Executive Director Wilfred Brown that indicated a great demand for a meal plan option expansion. Currently, students who sign up for the meal program receive a certain number of meals per week, and meals that go unused in a particular week do not “roll over” so students can make use of them at a later date.
Wood-Wilde said he would be in favor of allowing meals to roll over from week to week, but he said several options are currently on the table.
During Winter Quarter, Wood-Wilde said, he randomly distributed 200 questionnaires regarding on-campus meal plans to students in all of the on-campus residence halls. He said the participants unanimously favored a rollover meal plan.
Edner said Dining Services currently does not have a rollover meal plan because of the way pricing is calculated. Meal plan rates are based upon a ratio of how many meals students use as well as miss, she said, and allowing rollovers might increase the cost of a meal plan.
“We’re definitely interested to see what works best for students,” Edner said. “[The meal plans] are based on how many meals students eat and how many they don’t.”
However, Wood-Wilde said Dining Services is exaggerating the projected costs of the rollover meal plan.
“They’re worried that if more people are going to use all their meals, they’ll have to charge more,” he said. “I don’t really follow the logic. [Students have] already shown they can’t use all their meals. That’s not going to be an issue.”
Goldschen said he understood Dining Services’s concerns.
“All options have ups and downs,” Goldschen said. “For rollover, there’s no way to tell if they’ll use more meals, but [students] might ultimately pay more.”
Edner said the meetings with Wood-Wilde, Brown and Goldschen are usually very friendly and helpful.
“I had a very productive discussion with them,” Edner said. “We’re looking at possible group test projects. It’s still in discussion, though.”
Wood-Wilde said Dining Services might conduct a study next fall to test whether or not a rollover meal plan is feasible. Those conducting the study would randomly select 200 on-campus residents via e-mail to partake in a rollover meal plan at no additional cost.
“It’s still in the early stages,” Wood-Wilde said. “Another idea is to allow multiple [card] swipes per meal [time].”
Edner said she hopes Dining Services can eventually provide a quarterly rollover meal plan to students living on campus; however, she said fiscal concerns limit what it can offer.
“We’re not in it to make money,” Edner said. “We usually break even. … We want to provide the best possible food that students can buy.”
Goldschen also said he would like to find a middle ground for the price of meal plans.
“It’s something that I’d like to see happen, because I don’t want students to feel like they’re not getting their money’s worth in the dining commons,” Goldschen said. “My general feeling is that it’s set up for the students, not set up to make a profit. Looking from an economic perspective and a student service perspective, there’s a fine line. … [Wood-Wilde] and I are working with Judith Edner and Willie Brown to find that balance.”