The Collegian
Thursday, March 30, 2023

Swiping your cash

Richmond College '09

Do you ever end a week without using all your meal swipes? Chances are you have at least a couple left over at the end of each week. The truth is, the dollar value of those unused swipes starts to pile up after a while. I'm going to use some simple math to show you how the meal plans are stealing almost $1,000 a year from you.

The D-Hall flex rate for a meal is $6, and there's no question that you can get more than $6 worth of food for a swipe at the pier. If you use two swipes a day, six days a week, that's 12 swipes. Using the Spider Deluxe plan, which has 17 swipes, leaves you with five unused swipes every week. The Spider Premium plan has 19 swipes a week. Now I'm pretty sure I'm using really conservative estimates here. How many people use 12 swipes a week? Even when I double swipe at the pier I still end each week with closer to seven or eight swipes, if not more.

The bottom line if you have only five unused swipes a week, multiplied by a low-ball estimate of $6 value per swipe, that's $30 a week going down the drain. But wait, kids, the fun doesn't end there. There are 14 weeks in a semester. Thirty dollars multiplied by 14 weeks is $420 a semester. If you have only an average of 5 leftover swipes each week - you are losing $420 a semester because of our school's meal plan. In a year that's $840. The school has structured our meal plans using a "swipes per week" policy that is almost guaranteed to siphon off extra cash from kids not using their meal swipes. Where does that money go?

I also calculated what you actually pay for each meal swipe. Subtracting the value of dining dollars, the Spider Deluxe meal plan costs $2,260. That's what you're paying only for the meal swipes. You get 238 meal swipes with Spider Deluxe. If you pay $1 for every dining dollar, then you're paying $9.50 for each meal swipe. That's a pretty hefty price considering you only get $6 or $7 for each meal swipe.

Try running the same calculation about lost swipes with $9.50, and you're suddenly losing $1,330 a year to the meal plan.

Our meal plan is a rigged game. It's designed to steal the students' money in two ways. First, it pilfers student money by making sure we lose swipes every week. Second, it short changes students by diluting the value of our meal swipes. If you have Spider Deluxe, you are paying $9.50 for each meal swipe, but sadly D-Hall and the Pier both treat this as roughly a $6 value. The school forces everyone who doesn't live in the apartments to enter a system in which they lose roughly $1,000 a year.

Now if we said that 2,000 students use the meal plan - at a rate of $1,000 a year, the move to switch to "swipes per week" saves dining services nearly $2 million a year. That's a pretty huge amount of cash. Back that up with the fact that the move was passed over on the student body with little or no announcement, let alone debate or discussion. I think it's worth taking a look at how the school underhandedly swiped $2 million from us, and no one even noticed.

Contact writer Matt Bodnar at

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