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What happened to the create-your-own meal plan?

By Meagan Lettko November 22, 2019

When the current sophomore class registered for meal plans for the Fall semester, the create-your-own option was no longer there. This meal plan is still an option for juniors and seniors. It was removed without any prior notice and was, unfortunately, the cheapest option for sophomores before it was removed.

When I was a sophomore in August of 2017, I chose this meal plan. It featured 200 meal swipes per semester, each of which could be converted to Flex Dollars at a rate of $8.65 per swipe. Looking back on my expenses for my sophomore year, it cost $2,485 per semester for this meal plan.

I chose this meal plan because I was living in a Stackwyck apartment and was not close to any of the dining hall locations. I bought food on campus using Flex and used my kitchen to cook meals. Out of the 200 swipes I started with each semester, I used approximately 50 swipes at the dining halls and converted the rest of them to approximately $1,200 in Flex. I really enjoyed having this meal plan as it allowed me to customize my dining experience and I never wasted swipes because I could convert them.

When I was a freshman, if I didn't use all my allotted meal swipes per week, they would be gone. The CYO meal plan meant that I wasn't wasting money on swipes that I didn't use. The current meal plan options aren't necessarily the most convenient for sophomores and students living in apartment-style dorms farther from campus.

What most people do not know is how the CYO meal plan came about. This meal plan was created to support the growing population of the student body during a time when dining halls could not fully support the population of students living on campus.

More and more students are coming to RPI each year, which means that our facilities must accommodate this increase in population. With both the freshman and sophomore classes using the dining facilities daily, it was difficult to guarantee that everyone would have space to eat in the dining halls during peak hours. For this reason, the CYO meal plan was temporarily created for sophomores to use other dining options on campus that require Flex. This meal plan was never intended to be used once dining halls were expanded to accommodate more students.

This past summer, the Commons and Russell Sage dining halls were renovated to accommodate the growing populations of freshmen and sophomores as well as Arch students. The renovations have opened up hundreds of seats in these dining halls and the options have been expanded. There is now enough room to allow students with meal plans into the dining halls at all hours.

Over the past year, late-night dining shifted from Commons to the Union where students can use their meal swipes after 9 pm. Based on the lines that wrap around the entire lower level of the Union, this dining option is very popular. Now that our dining options have been upgraded, it’s time to take a look at how our meal plans reflect the upgrades and the lifestyle of students on our campus.

Every month members of the Student Senate meet with administrators who work closely with the facilities and services across the entire campus. In these meetings, we learned how the CYO meal plan was just a temporary fix.

We communicated to the administrators that sophomores need a more customizable meal plan option, as the majority of sophomore housing is not close to a dining hall. Through these meetings, we were informed that all meal plan options at RPI are being assessed by a third party company and our dining services and meal plans are being compared to peer and aspirant institutions. This is an effort to make sure that our campus provides the best food services to our students as Rensselaer works toward meeting its educational goals.

The Student Senate’s Hospitality and Services Advisory Committee as well as the Facilities and Services Committee will work with administrators to communicate student concerns in regards to meal plans. If you are interested in working on projects in this realm please consider joining these committees!

If you have any questions or comments, I can be reached by email at I also have office hours every Monday from 12:30–1:30 pm in the Student Government Suite in the Union, or you can meet with me by appointment.