Hi my name is Jan and I have been ripped off by my university. Among all the issues I have with the “great” American education system, universities raise the most troublesome questions. To clarify, I have attended Stony Brook University among with tenths thousands of other students. However, the issue I will talk about is as much prominent in most universities, colleges and institutions of higher learning as in SBU on LI in NY.
In theory you need only a limited number of things, conditions to function in college. A bed to sleep in, a desk to do homework on, access to books and a computer with internet, bathroom and food. The two schools I can vouch for are Stony Brook University and Westminster Choir College. Although I have eaten in several other schools in NY, NJ are those two I have frequent the most.
Those two schools (as do many more) have a “ironclad” requirement for freshmen’s (or longer) which is a meal-plans. You pay the university a large lump of money they give you points, that you can use to pay for food sold on campus. Idea, I guess, is not to starve, one is almost eighteen though (first year), so how could you not take care of yourself? Haven’t you learned by now?
Couple very simple catches show up. One, after finals are over for that semester unused points are lost. Two, food on campus is at least 40% more expensive on campus than the closest grocery store. The selection of “affordably” over-priced “healthier” food is very limited. Three, cooking on campus is very much hindered. Four, there is no way to fight it or appeal it. Five the campus specially orders decent food for the upper staff and alumni that come to campus.
So how do you fight a monopoly on food? Monopoly which in the best case will make you spend couple afternoons in the bathroom sitting and in worse you will be there on your knees hugging the ceramics or at the doctors with food poisoning. Monopoly which forces you to gain weight or spend a second tuition on outside food. Monopoly in which beer (five minutes off campus) is half as expensive as water on campus. Monopoly which does not care, because there is nothing you can do.
I heard explanations “So what are you going to do? Leave? Go right ahead (we don’t need you)”. Am I not the one paying for the tuition? Isn’t it unreasonable to expect some level of service? Unless the dissatisfaction with the foods safety and outrages prices gets a national momentum nothing will change, there is still more people willing to enlist and suffer through breakfast, lunch and lack of dinner (too expensive). In US higher education is a business and it is run as one, with a small difference. The inspections are internal and sanctioned by the money-greedy.