OPINION: Why don’t meal swipes roll over from week to week?

Price Wilborn, Commentary Writer

As WKU students, we’ve all been there – we’re especially hungry for dinner on Wednesday night, so we use an extra meal swipe and don’t think too much about it. A few days later, when the weekend rolls around, we’re regretting the extra swipe we used. “If only I hadn’t used that swipe on Wednesday.”

You then think, “this wouldn’t have been a problem last week. I went home for the weekend. I lost four swipes because of that. Dang, I wish my swipes rolled over.”

It’s a constant struggle, isn’t it? Trying to use all of your meal swipes so you don’t lose money, while still trying to feel like you’ve eaten enough on some days.

So, why don’t our meal swipes roll over week to week? 

There may be a perfectly good reason. If there is however, no one has explained it to me or anyone else. The meal plan terms and conditions simply state that “weekly on-campus meal swipes expire on Sunday night each week.”

Meal plan dollars roll over at the end of the fall semester, and at the end of the year, if they aren’t spent, they just disappear. Oddly, I’m okay with that. Students have ample opportunities to use their meal plan dollars. If they aren’t used, it’s your own fault.

Meal swipes, however, go away at the end of each week. If it gets to the point that a student has many left over, they may find themselves eating more than normal in order to try to use at least some of the money they would otherwise lose.

The university provides a meal plan guide that, along with the types of meal plans and explanations of how they can be used, provides the average cost of each meal swipe. These averages range from $6.01 to $8.62 per swipe.

Let’s look at the Weekly 14 meal plan (full disclosure, it’s the plan I have, so it’s the one I’m most familiar with). For $1,919 a semester, those with this meal plan are given 14 meal swipes a week and $250 meal plan dollars for the semester. The average cost per swipe is $7.45.

Let’s use the example I talked about at the start of this piece. You went home Friday morning and arrived back on campus Sunday afternoon. You lost four meal swipes. For that weekend alone, you’ve lost $29.80 that you won’t get back.

Now imagine that you go home once a month. If you go home four times in a semester, that means you’re losing $119.20. Now what about if you go home a couple weekends in a month? What if you go out to dinner with friends to celebrate a birthday? What if you are quarantined and told you have to go home? There’s many different reasons why you could not use your swipes in a week; some in your control, and some not. This loss of money can add up.

The university already has our money when they give us our meal plan dollars and swipes. Would it really be that hard to let our swipes roll over from week to week?

I’ll admit it–there are times I just want to eat. Whether it be because I’m stressed, I’ve missed a meal or I’m just surprisingly hungry and want to use two swipes. It would be a whole lot easier to get an extra meal if I needed it if I had those swipes that I’ve lost because I’ve gone home.

Also, why would they give us a full week of swipes during move-in weekend? I lost about six swipes, or $44.70, that weekend. That’s money I’m never going to get back.

I would be okay if my swipes rolled over each week and then disappeared at the end of the semester. They don’t even have to roll over after winter break. Move-in weekend will give you a head start each semester with a few extra swipes.

If the swipes rolled over, students would still be getting the same amount each semester. You’re getting 12, 14, 10 or however many you may get in a week, but you’re just simply not losing them if they aren’t used by Sunday night.

The stress students feel about trying to get their money’s worth out of their swipes is a completely unnecessary addition to the already countless stresses of college life.

The extra roll-over of meal swipes would provide students the flexibility to eat more healthily if they choose. It would eliminate the weekly battle of, “will I have enough swipes this week?” or, “how am I going to use up all these swipes before Sunday?” It would give students their money’s worth–something that some don’t feel they always get.

It seems like a simple courtesy that the university should provide: allow meal swipes to roll over from week to week to promote healthy eating and give students their money’s worth or actually give the student body an explanation as to why they don’t. It’s just common sense to me.

Commentary Writer Price Wilborn can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @pricewilborn.