Mandatory student meal plans opposed at Alaska university

Published: Nov. 11, 2019 at 12:00 PM AKST
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— A University of Alaska Fairbanks student has launched a protest campaign against the school’s mandatory meal plans for undergraduates living on campus.

Freshman Brennan Lippert, 19, said mandated meal plans are an extra financial burden for students who already pay high costs, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Sunday.

Lippert has carried a sign on campus reading, “Mandatory Meal Plans are a Scam,” while gathering nearly 280 student signatures on a petition.

The university requires undergraduate students living on campus to buy a meal plan, with an exception for undergraduates in campus family housing, spokeswoman Marmian Grimes said. The school began requiring freshmen to live on campus this year.

The university’s share of meal plan fees totaled $565,000 last fiscal year, which remains within what is intended to be a “self-supporting” dining services program, Grimes said.

This semester, 860 required meal plans were sold, she said.

“The money that the university receives as part of having dining on campus, that’s going to go to help keep the facilities up to date,” Grimes said.

Fairbanks offers eight dining plans for campus residents. Options include “block” plans covering daily meals and “Munch Money,” which acts as regular money but can only be applied to dining services.

Freshmen must choose the Weekly 7 Block costing $2,695 per semester or the Weekly 5 Block for $2,450 per semester.

The University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Alaska Southeast also require students in campus residence halls to purchase meal plans, but those are structured differently.

According to Lippert, this is unreasonable for lower income students.

"These high prices, Increase the barrier to higher education by a substantial amount. The price is a large percentage of the cost of getting this higher education currently. This not only disproportionately affects lower income students, who have less money to put towards higher education in the first place, but it also decreases the availability of students who want to come in to the state from out of the state."

Acceptable changes, Lippert said, would include allowing Fairbanks students to opt out of meal plans and providing another campus residential option without a meal plan that provides more refrigerators and facilities for students to cook.

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