Consortium-wide meal-price increase poses problems for Harvey Mudd College students

Meals at the Claremont College dining halls now cost 25 cents more per meal, disproportionately impacting Harvey Mudd College students. (Chris Nardi • The Student Life)

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Claremont Colleges’ dining halls now cost 25 cents more per meal, according to the colleges’ Business and Financial Affairs Committee.

The consortium-wide price increase, implemented at the start of the academic year, impacts Harvey Mudd College students disproportionately due to HMC’s weekly flex allocation.

All other colleges in the consortium provide students with their semester-value of flex at the beginning of each semester.

But for Mudd students, unused flex at the end of each week does not roll over to the next week, making budgeting weekly flex a priority for some, Judy Augsburger, director of public relations at Mudd, wrote in an email to TSL.

The BFAC evaluates its budgets annually in the summer before each academic year to set the dining hall meal-plan rates according to increasing food and labor costs, Augsburger wrote.

“Given [increasing food and labor] cost increases, the BFAC raised the price per meal this year for all meals at the colleges for students, faculty, staff, and guests,” Augsburger said.

Meal plans differ by school across the 5Cs, with HMC and Claremont McKenna College offering meal plans as low as eight per week in addition to the 16-, 14-, and 12-meal plan options.

At Scripps College and Pitzer College, students can choose between the 16-meal and the 12-meal plan. Pomona students have the flexibility between the 16, 14, and 12, with the added option of higher or lower flex plans.

Gavin Yancey HM ’19 is on the 12-meal plan and, in the past, used the total $12 of flex he was provided with per week on three breakfasts at $4 per breakfast.

“Now that breakfast is $4.25, I can flex into one less breakfast and have an extra $3.50 of flex at the end of the week that I don’t know what to do with,” Yancey said. “As a result [of the price increase], I can’t eat meals in the dining hall as much as I want to.”

The price increase has caused Harry Fetsch HM ’20 to switch to the 14-meal plan with $14 of flex per week, so he can still get three dining hall breakfasts per week. However, the higher meal plan costs Fetsch $347 more per semester.

“I understand that the dining halls need to balance their budgets, but the tiny increase in flex price seems like a terrible way to do it,” Fetsch said. “[The price increase] takes advantage of the limited choice we have in meal plans.”

While weekly flex poses roadblocks to dining habits for Mudd students, Augsburger noted that the administration is flexible regarding its meal plan policies.

“The Harvey Mudd administration has been open to changing the flex plan, but multiple student surveys have shown that our students prefer a weekly plan,” Augsburger said.

Augsburger added that HMC has expanded its food options to include breakfast at various price points available at Shanahan Center Cafe and Jay’s Place.

“The College is committed to assuring that Harvey Mudd students have everything they need to succeed,” Augsburger said. “We believe an important part of our students’ success is access to food that promotes health and well-being.”

However, despite these alternatives, some students claim that modifications to dining habits can fall short of the nutritional value that access to a full dining hall meal offers.

Dillon Coville HM ’21 has altered his eating habits in response to the price increase by buying four Cliff Bars from Jay’s Place — eating two bars for breakfast twice a week — instead of flexing into two dining hall breakfasts.

He noted that he prioritizes using 100 percent of his flex per week and that, due to the price change, he does not see value in flexing-in for one breakfast and finding use for the remaining $3.75 per week.

“The change has heavily impacted my eating habits because I have two less meals to plan my week around which is much more difficult,” Coville said. “I have to deal with more food insecurity than before [the price increase]. Unfortunately, four Cliff Bars does not equal [to] two breakfasts.”

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