Dining Dollar Dilemmas

SUNY New Paltz students have difficulty budgeting their meal plans and dining dollars.

With dining plans for some remaining dry in the middle of the semester, students have had to deal with the struggle of obtaining funds for food. But, with an upgrade in dining options this semester as a result of the renovation of the Student Union (SU), many believe better food comes at a cost.

“As much as I like the new food available at the SU, I think it is definitely overpriced,” third-year sociology major with a concentration in human services Lauren Spinella said.  “If I want a sandwich, chips and a drink, I’m paying at least $8, which is a lot.  And to be eating like that three times a day, my money goes fast.”

With several different dining plans available for students to choose from, the seemingly best option may not be the most desirable.  The all-you-can-eat Hasbrouck plan allows students to eat whenever they want without worrying about dining dollars.

According to Ralph Perez-Rogers, the general manager of the Food Service & Administration Office on campus, freshman are required to have the Hasbrouck plan.

“As freshmen come into college, they already have enough stress and things to worry about regarding their academics,” Perez-Rogers said.  “They don’t need to be worrying about dining dollars and making them last right now.  And from the parents’ perspective, they only have to pay one price and know that their kid will be fed every day.”

Third-year sociology major with a concentration in human services Kaitlyn Russo said budgeting does seem to be a difficult issue many students face with the dining plan this semester.  Staying on schedule on any given day is a problem some students can’t seem to solve.

“The pasta at the SU comes in larger portions than the pasta at Oscars, and it’s cheaper,” said Russo. “I don’t really understand why I have to pay $7 for a smaller dish of pasta at Oscars when I’m paying $5 at the SU to get more.”

Perez-Rogers said that he has received complaints from students and parents when they run out of dining dollars, but it simply comes down to a matter of staying on track with the schedule that is printed out and included in all the food establishments on campus.

Fourth-year elementary education major Sarah Marcellus said she thinks Hawk dollars instead of dining dollars might be a better option for students.

“If I had $1,000 in Hawk dollars to spend throughout the semester, I think I could make it last for the entire time,” Marcellus said.  “I could get a $5 foot long at Subway, or slices of pizza at Gourmet for $2 or even buy groceries from Shop Rite to keep in my room.  The food on campus is a little overpriced, and with better options available in town for cheaper, I think Hawk dollars might work better for a dining plan.”

Students who live off campus seem to agree.  Second-year history major Matt Zeiger lived on campus his freshman year and now he lives in a house with four of his friends.  He said he opted out of the dining plan this semester, and is glad he did.

“Having the all-you-can-eat Hasbrouck plan as a freshman sucked,” he said.  “I got so sick of Hasbrouck by the end of the year, that I started using Hawk dollars at the SU, but it just seemed like I was wasting money that could have been better spent at one of the places in town that accepts them.  Now that I don’t live on campus, I just buy food in town and I’m probably saving more money than I would have if I had a meal plan.”

Other off-campus students have had the same attitude about not having to purchase a dining plan anymore and having the freedom to enjoy off campus dining options.

“It’s not that the food on campus isn’t good, but for the money it costs to get a sushi roll or a little pizza, I would rather go somewhere in town and get something better and cheaper,” said second-year music major Dan Reiser.

Because living on campus requires students to choose a meal plan, third-year art education major Danielle Sansone said a mixture of all available options seems to be the general consensus.

“If I could have 45 Hasbrouck blocks, and then split the $1,000 between dining dollars and Hawk dollars, I don’t think I would run out,” she said. “Maybe more Hawk dollars than dining dollars, but I would definitely like a meal plan that comes with all three dining options.”

Adding Hawk dollars as an option to the meal plan could prevent many students from running out of money too soon. With the stress of finals and the need to finish the semester strong, any alleviation from unnecessary problems would be embraced by students on campus, said third-year art education major Sam Leopoldo.

“The last thing I want to worry about as the semester comes to an end is how I’m going to eat,” she said. “Stress about my meal plan is a problem I don’t need to deal with on top of all the work I have to do before the end of the semester.  Something needs to be changed so we stop running out of money too soon.”