May 19, 2023 | NEWS | By Will Sylvain
As the 2022-23 school year comes to a close, a familiar scene unfolds outside of Rastall Dining Hall: students whose Gold Card money has run dry borrow swipes from friends with a surplus to spend. It is a constant balancing act, as many students struggle to budget for exactly what they are provided through the standard meal plan at Colorado College.
Next fall, however, the CC Office of Finance and Administration will look to diminish the number of students borrowing swipes, as they plan to increase the meal plan cost by $300 per semester, a 10% hike from the 2022-23 allotment.
This increase joins a streak of annual increases at least a decade long, but marks the largest one in recent years by a significant margin. The cost increased this year by 6.8% from last year, following a 4% increase from the previous year. Now, in response to a new federal law, CC will up the ante by several percentage points in hopes of making the meal plan more robust for its students.
According to this new mandate from the Department of Education, standard meal plans at colleges and universities must provide enough money for students to eat 21 on-campus meals per week. At its 2022-23 amount, which was $2950 per semester, CC’s meal plan did not meet that mark, so the new price will reflect the cost of 21 on campus meals per week.
But the new federal mandate isn’t the only thing driving this hike in price. According to Lori Seager, vice president for finance and chief financial officer at CC, the increase is also directly related to how much money students used this year.
“One of the things I can see behind the scenes is how much money is leftover on students’ meal plan cards at the end of the year,” said Seager, “and that total has gone down markedly.”
Rising costs due to inflation also affect the budget, as meal swipes may be slightly more expensive while still providing the same level of service. Seager says there is also the natural life cycle of a kitchen to consider: things like new dishes, ovens, or other infrastructure costs come directly from student meal plan budgets, which can also explain an increase in the price students have to bear.
She added that increased attendance at the Pantry Exchange, CC’s initiative to help deliver food security to students by exchanging used items for healthy food options, has indicated to the school that the current budget isn’t cutting it.
The additional $300 per semester, Seager clarified, will not translate to an increase in the quality of food options on campus. It will simply allow for a more robust meal plan, and a guarantee that students can get three meals per day every day of the year.
But for some students, the current meal plan amount is plenty, and an increase may seem like overkill.
“It seems like a waste of money, to be honest,” said Ollie Beland ’25. Beland continued that, despite eating three meals a day when he was on campus, he struggled to make use of the entire meal plan budget this year and will end up with several hundred dollars left over.
“I think the increase from last year was good,” he said, “because last year I did run out of meal plan money both semesters and had to refill a little bit, but I don’t think it needs to increase again.”
Other students, however, haven’t been as pleased with this year’s amount. For example, Kampei Omichi ’26, said the increase would be a welcome change.
“Last semester, I ran out in Block 3. I’ve been really rationing this semester, so it would be nice to have the extra money,” he said.
Omichi and his friend Ronan Takizawa ’26, who are both low on Gold Card cash, swiped into Rastall this week on their friend’s dime. Like Beland, he had underspent on campus this semester, and was looking to offload some of his surplus funds.
Striking the perfect balance might be a never-ending struggle for students at CC, but Lori Seager and the Office of Finance are hoping to tip the scales. By guaranteeing 21 on-campus meals per week, CC hopes to ensure that students like Omichi and Takizawa have enough money in their accounts to go the distance.