Campus News

Housing residents will be required to deposit $1400 in dining dollars

A new meal program — which will be implemented at the start of the next school year — will require students living in dorms to deposit a minimum of $1,400 onto their WisCard for dining purposes. 

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Students in UW-Madison’s dorms will see a new charge on their housing bill next year. The university will require residents to deposit a minimum of $1,400 on their WisCard, to be used exclusively in dining halls.

According to Dining and Culinary officials, residents will pick a set amount of money — between $1,400 and $3,100 — to deposit on their card. The money can only be used in dining halls or unions and will be forfeited if not used up by the end of the academic year.

The change to a “tiered” resident meal plan is an attempt to be “upfront” and “transparent” with parents concerned their student was spending more than anticipated in dining halls, according to Director of Dining and Culinary Services Peter Testory.

“[This system] is really giving people a better picture as to how many meals a week do you think you are going to eat in the residence hall,” Testory said. “[It gives you an idea of] the amount of money that you should look at spending for the entire academic year.”

While in the past the university simply informed residents about how much an average student spends throughout the year, Testory said a required tier system will allow the university to understand its budget, and therefore keep food prices low for students.

Testory said the minimum spend tiers were determined based on the historical average spending rates on campus. He said that, while the average amount of money a student spends in the dining hall each year is around $1,200, students also spend an average of $200 in the Unions — which is how they settled on the $1,400 minimum.

The minimum tier — “Bronze” — equates to approximately nine meals a week. Those who choose the “Silver” and “Gold” tiers must deposit more money but will receive incentives, like bonus dining cash and free beverages.

A student enters the silver tier by putting between $2,100 and $3,099 on their card, and the gold tier by depositing a minimum amount of $3,100.

The money will be deposited into a specific Resident Food Account on the students’ WisCards. Students who wish to purchase non-food products with their WisCard at locations like the University Bookstore must transfer supplementary money onto their card.

Despite the new required minimum deposits that incentivize students to spend more money at the dining hall, all food purchases in the dining halls will remain à la carte — students will continue to pay only for what they eat.

Testory acknowledged that some students may not be able to afford the required dining fee. He said that although there is currently “no solidified plan” to deal with that, the department will have a solution before the new plan begins next year.

“Food insecurity on campus is a big issue, and it is a big issue for us as a department,” he said. “We are working on a process to address students who fall within that category.”

Students living off-campus will still be able to get a five percent discount on dining hall-prepared food under the new system, but will not be required to deposit a minimum amount of money.

Testory said that while dining service officials are discussing a way to offer off-campus students a type of meal program, their focus right now is on the resident meal program.

“We didn’t really change our current model,” Testory said. “We took the information we had and tried to lay it out a little clearer with this plan.”

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