January 27, 2013

Grad Students to Be Offered New Meal Plan

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At a meeting Jan. 21, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly approved a new meal plan for graduate and professional students.

The plan is similar to its predecessor in that it offers Big Red Bucks to graduate and professional students along with a tax discount at Cornell dining establishments on campus. However, the new plan, which will be available starting this semester, also eliminates the administrative fee charged to students each academic year, creates an additional discount at the Big Red Barn and allows students to use their ID cards like debit cards.

GPSA President Mitch Paine grad said that the resolution received “overwhelming support” within the assembly.

“When I presented the plan at the GPSA last semester, and again this semester, I got a lot of positive feedback from my fellow graduate students,” said Matt Holden, the GPSA representative to the Student Assembly Dining Services Committee.

Holden said the former plan’s tax discount on $250 in Big Red Bucks each semester was less than the administrative fee, causing students to lose money.

“So a graduate student would be losing $10 each year, or $30 if they only bought one semester, when compared to purchasing their food using cash. Why pay for a plan that loses you money?” Holden said. “Graduate students are pleased that they now have a plan that actually makes financial sense.”

Holden said that students have expressed dissatisfaction with the conditions of the meal plan in previous years.

“About a year back, an incoming graduate student asked me if he should get the graduate student meal plan. I told him, ‘You might as well take a ten-dollar bill out of your wallet and light it on fire,’” Holden said. “It is my impression that prior to the new plan, there were two types of graduate students: those that bought the plan and were displeased with it, and those who didn’t buy the plan.”

Holden said he has been working with Cornell Dining Director Gail Finan since the summer to bring the plan into fruition. He said one of Finan’s ideas was the discount at the Big Red Barn, which was created to attract more students to the location.

“[Finan] took in everything I had to say and incorporated some of my ideas with her own,” Holden said. “It shows that Cornell Dining recognizes the importance of the Big Red Barn as a graduate student community center.”

According to Karen Brown, director of campus life marketing and communications, the new plan is based on the “highly successful” Executive Choice Plan offered to professional students at the Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Paine said Brown, Cornell Dining officials  and the GPSA all agree that the new meal plan “aligns [Cornell Dining’s] offerings” to the needs of the graduate community. Paine also said he believes the new meal plan will be well-received.

“We have for a long time had no financially sound dining option and this opens us up to a host of Cornell Dining locations,” Paine said. “Many graduate and professional students spend so much time on campus that having a meal plan that will make it more affordable to eat on campus can help our wellbeing as students.”

Original Author: Nikki Lee