Along with dropping Aramark for Sodexo, ETSU has updated meal plan policies. This year, the change means that freshmen living on campus, except those living at Buccaneer Ridge Apartments, were automatically enrolled for a meal plan. A new cohort will be added to this list every year, until all students living on campus are required to have a meal plan, except for those living at Buc Ridge.
While dining on campus is convenient and the Student Government Association along with other ETSU officials have worked together to make changes in response to student input, this new policy takes away students’ choice.
And it’s also important to note that the meal plan comes with a price tag of at least $1,675 per semester. This is arguably a steal if the student plans to dine on campus every day, but can quickly become a burden for cash-strapped students who want to venture off campus for meals.
The mandatory meal plan model is already in place at several other universities, including the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Vanderbilt University, which requires all students residing on its campus to have a meal plan. UTK’s policy requires all first-year students living on campus to purchase a meal plan but has a more relaxed policy for other students.
ETSU’s policy change, along with the construction of the football stadium and fine and performing arts center, suggests that university officials are preparing the university for success as a larger university. And this might not be the end of the new mandates.
At uthousing.utk.edu, UTK’s policy requiring that “all single freshman students who do not commute from the home of a parent or legal guardian” to live on campus is outlined. And vandebilt.edu outlines that university’s policy that “all unmarried undergraduate students” are required to live in residence halls.
With the exciting possibility of expansion on horizon for ETSU, is it possible that students are going to face more university-imposed sanctions on their living situation? Maybe, but consideration is if students should already be choosing to live on campus.
A 2010 study titled “Estimating the Effects of Dormitory Living on Student Performance” conducted by Pedro de Araujo and James Murray of Colorado College and University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, respectively, found that living on campus raised student GPAs by “one-fifth to one full letter grade.”
This level of academic improvement could mean the difference between losing and keeping a scholarship for some students. If the findings of this study hold true at a bigger scale, a policy mandating that students live on campus could be beneficial to individual learning outcomes and to the university’s reputation.
With the change in ETSU’s meal plan policy and the recently undertaken construction projects, the university is poised to join the ranks of larger schools in Tennessee. This could move the university to impose more new requirements, but the benefits could outweigh the drawbacks for students in the long run.