Panda Express, Dunkin' and the beloved Chick-Fil-A are some food options that are located on UT’s campus.
This is a great commodity for students like myself, but the problem is that I will be standing in line for an hour and a half to get a chicken sandwich if I decide to eat on campus.
UT students do have a couple different options when it comes to choosing their meal plan for the year, but one issue that students like me face when getting a meal plan, is the required Flex plan.
This plan forces students who are commuters or taking at least 6 credit hours to pay at least 300 dollars upon other fees that come with attending, to ‘eat’.
The problem with this is that most commuters are only on campus a couple hours a day, and typically eat off campus or at home. Paying an extra 300 dollars up front to the University is a big ask for normal students, considering most are taking out loans to pay their tuition.
According to the UT website found here you will notice that there are 28,894 students currently enrolled and US News states that 67% of students live off-campus. This means roughly 19,359 students had the opportunity to pick their meal plan, or it picked for them.
UT requires students who do not purchase one of the normal meal plans, to purchase the ‘Flex Plan’ which allows students to swipe their Vol Card and get the items they want at any of the dining hall locations, convenient stores, etc. on campus.
Sounds like a good plan, right?
But students are not getting their money's worth in several ways with the Flex Plan.
UT does have different options for students to go eat at, but not enough to distribute food efficiently. With so many students wanting food during the day, the few options that students have are constantly packed and it makes it almost impossible to grab something to eat between classes because there is simply not enough time. Prices also affect students’ choices, they should be lowered on campus, so students can eat more or at least be able to afford something more reasonable. This drives students to avoid spending time and money on campus food.
For me, one who chooses to eat off campus to avoid the awful lines, I should be able to keep my money and spend it how I choose, and not be forced to give it to the University so they can make more money than they already do. This is where this option makes no sense. I choose to do both, commute and eat off campus, so why should I be forced to buy a plan that I will never use?
The University does allow for Flex Plan roll overs from year to year, and also allows the students who have it to request a full refund which is great, at least those students will be able to get their money back. The problem with that is that students must wait till the end of the semester and must fill out the request to get their money, and then wait for the money to be refunded.
That 300 dollars could be spent throughout the year on other things for commuters like other food options, gas, or other expenses that come with being a college student.
The best way for this issue to be resolved and not only benefit the typical commuter or Flex Plan user, but also the hassle for certain departments at UT, is cutting this ridiculous requirement for students.
Cutting the mandatory Flex Plan would benefit the UT staff because they would not have to file through all the paperwork that is involved, make sure students are refunded their money, and spend their time managing these accounts. They could focus their time and effort on more important issues around campus.
Students would benefit the most. Being able to save 300 dollars upfront is beneficial to anyone. This would allow students, like myself, to spend my money the way I want. It gives me more freedom and options with eating, if I want to eat on campus I can, if I want to go with friends off campus, I can do that as well.
With the amount of money students must dish out to even attend UT, the 300 dollars for the Flex Plan could go a lot farther in our pockets, then in UT’s.