Wednesday, July 12, 2017

College Boy's Last Semester & Eating

This Fall will be College Boy's last semester basically.  In the Spring semester he will be working an internship away from campus so won't be attending classes or living at school.

The spending situation changes this coming school year too.  He is no longer living on campus but renting a room in an apartment two friends of his basically subletting from them(with permission from the landlord).

So no $4,900 per semester housing cost(which is the approximately cost of a dorm room configuration he use to get per semester).
How these schools can get off charging that sort of money for a dorm room is beyond me!
But I digress.....

So we are going from rent of $1,225 per month for a dorm room to $300 per month at this apartment.  I know that $300 includes wifi/internet but even if we have to pay extra for electric and water(we don't have the deals on that yet), it's still a great deal by comparison!

As for his board(food)he no longer is required to have a meal plan.
We wasted so much money on meal plans over the last 3 years!

This child eats like a large snake.  He'll eat a massive amount and then not eat again for 2 days(sunning himself on a large rock in the interim is optional). ;-)  He also mostly eats at night and lives on coffee during the day.

He doesn't eat on a regular schedule and meal plans require you to do just that.
A 19 meals a week or 14 meals a week plan require you to eat many meals per week and if your student, say, only eats 12 meals in a particular week then you loose 7 or 2 meals(you are charged for them whether your student eats them or not). Meals on each of the 3 plans at CB's school(19 meals per week, 14 meals per week, 10 meals per week)equal out per meal to $6.12, $8.23 and $10.84(!!!)respectively.

We tried the 175 meal Block plan too which doesn't require to eat any particular number of meals per week.  You get 175 meals for the semester and you eat them when you want to.  The only problem with this plan is that he ran out of meals before the semester was over.  I'll add that the per meal price on this plan equals out to $9.10 per meal....expensive but at least you know the student will eat all of these overpriced meals.

The pricing on these meal plans is such that they basically force you to select the most expensive plan since the only difference between the high end and the low plan is about $300 total.
Here's an article on the ridiculous cost of college meal plans HERE.

So I sat down with College Boy to talk about food for the upcoming semester.
He wants to try to do the bulk of his eating/cooking at his apartment(bringing a sandwich from his apartment during class days)but I know he'll probably forget or be too rushed some mornings so I've got to allow for buying pre-made options on campus.

There are various options at his school for dining on campus--
* The regular all-you-care-to-eat hall
* The food court hall(downstairs for the "AYCTE" dining hall) which is basically burgers, pizza, deli sandwiches and salad
* A coffee shop in the Alumni Hall
* An Einstein bagels franchise on campus in a dorm building
* A prepackaged food cart in a building near the gym

At first I thought, since he bought the bulk of his dining plan meals at the Einstein bagels locale(they accept dining scrip)instead of giving him cash or signing him up for a Senior dining plan($500 of flex cash)I'd just buy him a discounted Einstein Bagels gift card, which would save me the most $$.

But then I sat down with him and found out why he ate most of his meals at Einstein's.  First off it was open until midnight whereas no other option(neither on campus or businesses off-campus)where open that late other than the bars.  He is a nighttime grazer this one and with his schedule he would rarely get time to eat until after 11pm.

Secondly, Einstein's was the closest on campus option to his dorm room so it was also a convenience issue.  Now that he won't be living in the dorms and nearby to the Einstein's I have to figure how likely is he this semester to eat there.

So we still have no ideal plan yet for the "buy your meal" part of this dining equation.
I thought perhaps buying his discounted gift cards to McDonald's and Pizza Hut as those are the two food places closest to his apartment for this Fall, but neither is open past 11 pm, even on weekends in this town.

The only grocery store option in town is Walmart(the town has NO grocery stores!)so that simplifies grocery needs.  I can buy him a discounted gift card for groceries.  The school runs a bus to Walmart and back so he can easily get there and buy what he needs.

I am thinking he "might" use the coffee shop options on campus and/or the satellite prepackaged "Simply To Go" locale for quick eats during the day as those two are near the building where he spends the bulk of his time(music building)so it would be worthwhile to buy him some school branded script instead of the "flex dollars".   Flex is only good for food purchases and expires at the end of the term, where as the Script is good campus wide(at the bookstore, for fees, etc.)and never expires AND you can get a refund back of any unspent funds when you leave school/graduate.

I just don't want to hand College Boy a wad of cash this semester, intending it to be spent on food, and he ends up buying vape juice and using it to drink in the bars instead.

So after our "sit-down" we have decided to do this-when we take him back, take him to Walmart for an initial grocery buy(to supplement what I am hauling to school for him from my pantry stockpile) then give him a Walmart gift card($100, bought at a discount online of course!), load him a small amount of School-Branded "money" to use on campus($50) and give him a discounted gift card to either McDonald's or Pizza Hut($25).
After a month is over we'll evaluate the plan, see what he spent/didn't spend and adjust from there and see what the best plan is going forward.

So I have the beginnings of a plan for the Fall.  We are "investing" $175 on his food needs to begin and will go from there.  And I can bring down the costs more by stocking him with goods from home that I got cheaply and buying discounted gift cards online he can spend at his discretion.

I feel better, and so does my wallet, knowing I won't be spending between $1593 and $1928 per semester so the boy can eat!
Hell, at the cost of the 19 meal-a-week dining plan a full year of school comes out to $3856 for food for 1 student!
That's close to what I spent a couple of years ago on groceries for my entire family for the year!!

Just curious to know, if you have a kid in college, what does their school charge for meal plans?



  1. Wow, we only had B in a sorority for one year and it was an expensive joke. But I had no idea it could be this expensive.

    1. It has gotten waaaay out of hand! PMITA is what they do......

  2. Where do you get discounted gift cards?

    1. various online sites sell them...raise, card cash, etc. Google discounted gift cards to find them.

  3. My Adam is closer to you at Millersville which is around 20 minutes from Lancaster. His meal plan last year for 14 meals per week was around $2,000 per semester. His dorm room was $4,000 per semester with four guys sharing. This year his junior year, he will be living in an apt. sharing with 4 other people. Rent is $250.00 a month and we will need to split the propane bill which I am told is low, we will see. Adam hasn't really cooked much so we might go with the 14 meals a day this semester and then decide to go lower. Room and board at college is such a ripoff. Cheryl

    1. Can you just do Flex Cheryl? Or maybe the 175 meal Block if he doesn't eat 14 meals a week so you don't "lose" some?
      I am thankful CB can cook and WILL! lolz

    2. He wants to start cooking. He can make grilled cheese and Mac and cheese from a box. He wants to cook so that is half the battle. We are seriously thinking of dropping the 14 a week because I am paying enough to not waste meals.

  4. Both my kids are off campus this year though their rent is much more expensive than your CB's - for a 12 month lease D1's rent is $425 and D2's rent is $550 (incl. heat & water), but still saves me almost $2000 compared to dorm housing. But the *&#%ing food plan. Hate the food plan. My kids NEVER ate even half of what we paid for due to having class (what the heck?!?!) and/or band practice during dining times and if they tried to snag an apple for later they got yelled at by the dining hall staff.

    So last spring the cheapest basic meal plan was $2,376, required in a dorm. That is 12 meals a week and $250 points to use at any on campus food court, coffee or POD, or 155 meals and $490 points for the semester. This fall it is up to $2,432. That doesn't count winter session meals either which is a month long semester. That food plan for last winter, 12 meals a week and points for one month was $811!! So last year just food on campus cost me $5,563. Highway robbery! That is $618 a month for one 19 year old girl. I don't spend that much per month on all 4 of us at home!

    1. I can understand dining halls have "hidden" costs(like paying salaries to everyone who works in them that home cooks don't have)but because they have to provide so much/special items(multiple options/multiple locations and restricted diet items like vegan, gluten-free, allergy-free)it's gotten out of hand!
      So how are you handling the food problem now that they are off-campus?

    2. My oldest was off campus last year so I would take her a couple times a semester for a big shop to Aldi(about $125 each time). And she has one of my credit cards in her name so if she needs anything in the interim she goes and gets it (averaged about $120/month). I think the rest of the time she ate out on her own dime or her boyfriend's, or she came home for dinner and snagged supplies out of my pantry.

      Will probably do the same for youngest this year but may get her flex $ or off campus meal card as she tends to have the late labs and longer, weird hour classes, but not sure yet.

      As for "hidden" costs, I know they have overhead. That is built into the price. The robbery is requiring you to purchase a plan that any kid with a full time schedule could not possibly get the benefit of.

      Just glad to be almost done with it all. Two more years and I'm free!!!!

      Yours - DeeCee

  5. Thankfully we no longer have to deal with this (Yea for graduation in May) but last year we opted for no meal plans at school. We gave him 125 dollars a month for lunches.(Figuring 5 bucks a lunch, which was considerably less than the food plan at the cafeteria. His apartment was about 50 blocks from school) and he ate primarily from food carts, until he discovered his $$$ went much further if he took a lunch from home. As time went by he found the joys of cooking a little extra at night and eating leftovers. Fortunately he is more than adequate in the kitchen and he and his roommates swapped cooking skills for groceries so most nights he was out more time than actual cash.

  6. I'll bet you are glad to not be paying that anymore! DD did dorm/meal plan the first year. She didn't eat alot so big waste of money so the 2nd quarter we downsized to the smallest plan. I don't recall the costs of it all now, but even living by herself in a one bedroom apt the next year was cheaper than the dorm and she liked it so much better. Plus she likes to make her own meals.

  7. DD has lived on campus for the past two years. The 7 day unlimited meal plan was $3956/yr. The only other option was 5 day (M-F) unlimited for $202 less. At least the food was excellent. Her horrible, roach infested freshman dorm room was $5360/yr plus she spent over $100 on using the laundry. Her much nicer sophomore year dorm room was $7198/yr and laundry was included. This year her junior year she is living off campus with 3 other girls. Her rent is $415mo for 12 months so $4,980/yr and she'll split the electric bill but all other utilities are included. She will be making her own meals and I have no idea how much she will spend. There is a WalMart and Aldi fairly close. It'll be a learning curve for her for sure! She does have to have a car now so insurance, gas etc...ugh... Six more years of college expenses for us...sigh...


  8. The dorms at my daughter's college in Iowa didn't even have air conditioning. Iowa is terribly hot when school starts in August. I know she ate in the dining hall, but I don't remember a meal plan. My son had one, but it was years ago. At least he really liked the food.


  9. Sluggy, is there a commuters lounge on campus with a microwave for student use? College boy could take frozen dinners, burritos etc with him and heat them up?

    1. As a matter of fact the school opened a new commuter lounge last Fall and it has 2 microwaves/min-fridges, a coffee pot and a toaster. I don't know how close to the Music bldg. it is but will suggest he utilize it. thanks.

  10. I have to comment since Wellesley was one of the colleges singled out in the article you linked to, and one of our girls attends Wellesley. 1) I ate at the Wang dining hall last year when I took our daughter to school, and the food was superb. Pricey, yes, but very, very good and high quality - much better and healthier than what I was served when I went to school 40 years ago, or what our son's college served in the mid-90s. I really didn't like the article's slam about the dining room and view of the lake. I've visited other college dining halls, and they all have big windows! This one wasn't anything different or more special - it's nice, but you can tell it's an institutional dining hall the moment you walk in. 2) What's not mentioned in the article is that each of the dorms also has their own dining hall, and each has a different menu each day. These dining halls were built long ago, and are something of a tradition. My daughter said that she loved being able to go down and eat breakfast in her pajamas rather than have to go out in the cold and snow first thing in the morning, and that she and her roommate would check the menus every day and decide which dining hall had the best food, and then go there to eat. She said the food was great in each of the dining halls. Anyway, the additional dining halls of course drive up the price. 3) There are no franchises on campus, but there is a food-service run coffee shop, and two small cafes - part of the meal plan includes scrip that students can use in these places, but they also keep food service costs up. 4) Most students at Wellesley live on campus and use the dining hall for all four years they attend the college - the demand for service stays constant year after year, but employees want and need raises, and as the article points out, the dining halls and kitchens need upkeep and supplies need to be refurbished. I can see though that somewhere down the line the dining halls in the dorms may be closed if expenses get out of hand (except there's not enough room in the Wang dining hall for everyone to fit).

    Overall, the meal plan at Wellesley is very expensive. Our daughter raved about the food though all last year. She's a big eater too - I'm pretty sure she was getting her $12's worth per meal most times (and then some). Thankfully she stayed active so kept off the "freshman 15."

    Our other daughter attends a state university, and paid a ridiculous price for her room and board her first year ($9000/year for a shared room the size of a broom closet), and said the food was awful.

  11. We were so lucky that we live in a university/college city - we saved a bundle with Kazi living at home and only having to pay tuition (a small fortune!) Not that she's using her French Lit degree but it's good to get an education right?

  12. recent-ish college graduate freshman year, we had to buy the food plan as I was on campus. I got what seems to be similar to your Script plan (I was/am a weird eater as well) and it lasted me the year in the dorms and, used sparingly, the last 3 years of school. However, I think this is the most excellent time to get him to start budgeting. You keep such good records, that you should know roughly how much he would need to eat each month (i.e. how much did your budget drop when he moved out?) Give him this amount at the beginning of each month and tell him: that's it. use it to eat, use it to vape, but you aren't getting any more (unless you provide receipts and indeed do need more). he's got to learn to start budgeting at some point - start him budgeting now. (since Walmart is the only option, you can still just buy cheaper giftcards and give him the certain amount each month - Walmart can transfer amounts from one giftcard to another, so you can combine/split up depending on the amounts purchased) - JP

    1. Vape juice and alcohol are available at WM. The card cannot be designated for food or pencils only.

    2. Just q question. Will his food be put in a communal pantry to be used by all at will? It seems this might be a waste of his resources if the others just use his ample supply of food.

    3. CB will share a fridge with two women. Not sure how they will work out who uses what.

    4. Sharing with two women will probably work better than with two guys in my opinion.


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