When students return to campus in the fall, they will have fewer choices when selecting a meal plan, but could see a substantial increase in flex dollars with a decrease in plan costs.
The 12 meal plans, currently serviced by AVI Foodsystems, Inc., will be reduced to six when Aramark Educational Services, LLC takes over Slippery Rock University’s (SRU) dining contract on June 1.
The change was part of a seven-year contract put out by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s joint purchasing. The contract will allow Aramark to provide services to SRU, along with Clarion, Edinboro and Indiana Universities.
As part of the bidding process, 35 companies submitted bids and three companies made it to the final round of deliberation. Along with Aramark and AVI, Chartwells Higher Education was also considered.
During the Finance Committee meeting for SRU Trustees, Amir Mohammadi, senior vice president for administration, global engagement and economic development, said Aramark was chosen based on its low bid and high-quality food and service.
Before selecting the vendor, the administration and Slippery Rock Student Government Association (SRSGA) conducted a survey on what students wanted with their meal plans. The overwhelming response, according to Mohammadi, was more flex dollars.
Aramark will keep the 19-, 14-, 10- and 7-meals-per-week (mpw) plans, along with the 75-block plan. The 19- and 14-mpw plans and 75-block plan will increase the flex dollars to the plans – $250 for the 19-mpw, $350 for the 14-mpw and $100 for the 75-block plan – but will not increase the price of the plan.
The 10-mpw plan will add $350 in flex dollars while decreasing the overall price to $1400 per semester.
The two other plans offered in the fall will see a price decrease, but will also decrease either the number of meals or flex dollars provided.
Aramark’s 7-mpw plan will reduce flex dollars from $255 to $100 in the fall, but the plan’s price is reduced to almost half, costing students $840 instead of more than $1,500.
With AVI, students were offered a 220-block plan with $100 flex dollars. This plan will now provide 175 meals for the semester and increase the flex dollars by $250. The 9% reduction in price will save students nearly $150.
The pricing proposed during the committee meeting will need to be approved by the Council of Trustees before taking effect due to the pricing change.
Some trustees asked if the council could increase the proposed pricing to provide the university with an additional revenue stream. While possible, SRU President William Behre advised against it.
“It would be a lot of pain for a little bit of money,” Behre said. “And we already have a complaint that our meal plans are what often will price students out of our residence halls because they could live cheaper [off-campus].”
While the contract with Aramark has been approved for all included universities, details have yet to be released. The council is expected to announce a special meeting to vote on the pricing before their June business meeting.