St. Catherine University has been educating and preparing women for more than a century. One way the school helps students prepare for the real world is budgeting. College is expensive and many students do not have much discretionary income. Students need to juggle large tuition payments, book fees, and lab fees. Resident students need to choose between five different meal plans. Even commuter students now have a $100.00 meal plan assigned to them.
One way St Catherine University can improve on preparing students for the real world is the meal plans, specifically do away with converting the meal plans to a Flex Point system. Let me give you a snapshot of what happens with the meal plans. Once purchased the dollar value is converted to Flex Points. When the student goes into the cafeteria to purchase a meal the signage is in dollars. When the student pays for the meal the receipt is in both dollars and points remaining.
Why? What is the purpose? There is no purpose! This back and forth between dollars and points is an abstract concept that causes confusion for students trying to budget. Meal plans based on arbitrary points not dollars is unjust and doesn’t prepare students for real world. Most commuter students are commuting so they can save money but in this case they are forced to purchase a meal plan they do not want, for food they do not want and then receive less value on the enforced meal plan than a residential student.
This abstract system of points not equaling dollars doesn’t go far enough in explaining the underlying the problem. As a result of the system not equaling dollars it is not as meaningful or as important to keep track of the points. Psychologically people have an easier time losing points than dollars. In reality at the end of each semester if there are any points left on the meal plan the amount is forfeited. The University should be ensuring the students are learning from this experience. Instead the University is ‘earning’ these points or dollars as part of their income.
What I have experienced is students frantically looking for someone to ‘buy’ a meal for so the points are not forfeited. As a graduate student I have experienced it firsthand where a student has purchased me a meal so they would not forfeit their points. This happened each year over the four years I worked on my graduate degree. I also experienced this again when my daughter was a resident on campus her freshman year. In order to use up her points she purchased many meals for family members in order to use up her allotment of Flex Points.
The cafeteria does post signs for to show approximately where a student should be in their points. But if a student looks and they are nowhere near where they should be for a point balance does that mean the student should purchase and eat more food? That seems ridiculous to have a point system dictate the food that should be purchased/eaten. Rather the student’s appetite and health should be what drives what the student eats.
The theoretical conversion of dollars to a Flex Point system for the meal plans is wrong and should be abandoned for a straight forward dollar system. Students will have a more accurate accounting of their meal plan, be able to budget accurately, know exactly what they need to use by the end of each semester. Having a straight forward system of meal plans is more in line with the values and teachings of St. Catherine and the real world of budgeting.
Please join me in asking the University to reconsider the Flex Point Policy for their meal plans by filling out any surveys you receive at graduation time or by writing to President Roloff.
Ruth A. Crepeau