Students unite over concerns regarding the transition from dining points to meal swipes and flex dollars.

Update: On Sept. 25, the APU One Card Office sent out an email to students that meal zones would be eliminated, effective immediately. Additionally, the dining hall will stay open from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. with the start date to be announced soon.

This year, APU switched from dining points to meal swipes and flex dollars. Although APU states that meal plans are convenient and cost-effective, many students feel the new system hinders these qualities. A few students have even voiced their complaints and ideas through petitions. 

Several students were asked their opinion on the change. While some praised elements of the meal swipes, all suggested ways that the system could improve. 

Freshmen Karstin DuPont and Abi Rojas had the fewest critiques. Rojas said most of her friends haven’t voiced too many complaints. She herself thinks the new system sounds more manageable. DuPont echoed this sentiment. 

However, both DuPont and Rojas have struggled to find time to eat dinner. DuPont’s physics classes and Rojas’s engineering classes sometimes end after 7 p.m., which is when most eateries on campus are already closed. 

Both DuPont and Rojas said another challenge to using up meal swipes is the meal time zones. APU states on various signs around campus, “You may use a Dining Plan Swipe once per Meal Zone.”

This means if students have a class during Zone 3, they can’t make up for that by doubling up during Zone 2. Between being away from campus on weekends and conflicting class and eatery schedules, DuPont and Rojas wished the meal swipes would carry through to the next week. 

The upperclassmen interviewed did not view the meal plan in such a favorable light.  

Sophomore psychology major Brooke Huxell must have a meal plan since she lives in the dorms. Because she is vegan and her food options are limited, she says she has difficulty using up meal swipes. 

This has been costly for her. Last year, the minimum plan for those who lived in the dorms was the Cougar Classic, which cost $1,550 a semester. This year, it is Cougar Plan C, which costs $1,900 a semester. This price increase accounts for the higher value of meal swipes, but for Brooke and others, these swipes are going to waste while flex dollars are flying down the drain. 

Huxell believes possible solutions could include allowing meal swipes to be used at Shalom or Hillside Grounds, and for students to be able to share meal swipes. As of now, if peers lend their ID card for a meal swipe, that ID card will be turned into the One Card Office. However, Huxell stands by her solution, saying, “There are many sophomores who can’t eat with their friends because they don’t have a meal plan, and the two guest swipes aren’t enough.”

Junior commuter and biology student, Sasiana Balseca, said she is still confused about the new meal plan. In fact, during the interview she discovered she had meal swipes after believing she didn’t since her swipe had failed to go through. She said, “I wish they would have clearly explained the new plan in some place like Chapel.” 

Now that Balseca has gotten used to the meal swipes, she thinks they could have the potential to be more economically friendly. She also said she would use fewer flex dollars at Shalom Cafe and more meal swipes at Paws ‘N Go if students could get a wider variety of drinks other than just water or a soda with their meal swipe. 

Balseca was in favor of the time zones saying that it keeps students from wasting meal swipes all at once. However, junior nursing major Joshua Song, an RA for Engstrom, was extremely against the meal time zones. He said, “I’m having to let go of several meal swipes because my nursing and honors classes conflict with the times that I can eat on campus.” 

Also struggling with the meal plan is senior cinematic arts major Nmachukwu Egbokwu. She wants others to know that the new system affects all students, and not just underclassmen. While Egbokwu has a meal plan for the convenience of eating on campus, she said, “it’s starting to feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth.” 

She echoes complaints of the time zones, the difficulty of using meal swipes (but still needing more flex dollars than Cougar Plans E and F offer) and the impossibility of eating with friends because they do not have meal swipes.  

“I miss the days where I could get as much snacks and have coffee or a drink whenever I wanted. I wish they could go back to the way things were,” said Egbokwu. 

Two students were inspired enough by students’ opinions, that they began their own petitions. Senior computer science major, Anthony Cucinella, started a petition that would allow unused meal swipes to be converted into flex dollars. Cucinella said, “I don’t want a drastic or radical change. I just want students to have a little more access to their dining plans.” 

Additionally, for students who stay on campus during holidays, Cucinella says it would be convenient for them to use those converted flex dollars towards food that they can refrigerate or freeze for the holiday break. Though Cucinella would like his petition’s idea to be put into action, he is content if it accomplishes something a little different. 

“At the end of the day, I just want this petition to encourage students to look into where their money is going, and to know you can clarify and be respectful at the same time,” he said. 

When sophomore physics major Josh Claunch’s petition comes out, it will be put up on the APU Now app and potentially advertised on posters around campus. 

After Claunch talked to his professors and coworkers, he learned that up until then, they had no idea what was happening and realized APU might be moved if they could hear the student’s reality. Though Claunch normally relies on others to do something, this belief motivated him to act. 

When asked if students simply wanted something to complain about, Claunch said, “There will always be some complaints for any kind of change that people don’t like. But a dissatisfaction rate like this is not normal. It is a problem.”