UNCW’s Meal plan requirement is a blatant money grab

Nicolas Ziccardi, Assistant Opinion Editor

With last week’s news that sophomores would soon be required to live on campus, we also learned that sophomores would be required to purchase a meal plan. While I previously expressed my distaste for the housing decision, this change to the meal plans is a much more egregious money grab. 

From The Seahawk, “The default plan will be the All Access 3 ($2,225.67 per semester), but students will have the option of upgrading to the All Access 6 ($2,460.82 per semester) or downgrading to the All Access ($1,972.50 per semester).”

The most basic meal plan totals to a little under $4,000 per academic year. With the new cost of housing and meal plan requirement, students will be spending a minimum of $11,031 over a two year period, excluding other expenses such as tuition. 

The two new dormitories aimed at sophomores, Terrapin Hall and Loggerhead Hall, have notably neglected an apartment style, and instead, opted for a suite layout without a kitchen. In the past, housing like Seahawk Crossing, an apartment style dorm, was originally marketed towards sophomores in an effort to entice them to stay on campus. These dorms without kitchens are further forcing on-campus students into purchasing a meal plan. 

Now, choice has been eliminated from the equation and apartment style living has been relegated to upperclassmen exclusively. Instead of relying on incentives, the university is simply requiring students to spend another academic year’s worth of money they wouldn’t have had to in the past. 

The most basic meal plan costs $1,972.50 per semester. This works out to roughly $22 a day on food. While not outlandish, that is a rather high figure for a single person and certainly not a figure everyone would normally reach when paying for food themselves. Not only is the cost of the plans a point of contention, but also the lack of choice involved. 

While it is completely understandable that freshmen are required to live on campus and have a meal plan, by sophomore year students should be given the choice of how they wish to live. Freshman year is an opportunity to get acclimated with college and campus life, to learn the ropes and find success in a controlled environment. 

However, sophomore year and beyond are opportunities to learn and get more slowly accustomed to life after college. If a student chooses to live on campus once again or continues to indulge in a meal plan, that is just as worthwhile as living off campus and cooking for themselves.

While Campus Life’s justification of the living changes was disappointing, at the very least the reasoning made a modicum of sense, especially when factoring in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is little justification or safety reason as to why a sophomore should be required to purchase a meal plan other than the school is not supplying the means necessary to cook.  

While this decision is not any worse than the housing decision, it is yet another example of the disappointing direction the university is going in how it chooses to spend its money and how it plans to make back lost profits from the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of focusing on renovations or further incentives for new students to choose UNCW, they are taking the route of forceful “amenities” that serve the university’s best interests, not the students.