Not enough or way too much: TigerCard balances are rarely just right


As the year draws to a close, students are taking a closer look at their Tiger accounts to see where they stand on dining money. Many are not happy with the numbers they see.
Although the meal plan is designed to run out at the end of the year, not many students eat according to plan. Generally, students end up in one of two end-of-the-year situations: running out of meal money early or being left with a large amount of unspent money.
The second scenario might not be so bad if it weren't for the "use it or lose it" policy for meal plan money. According to University policy, if a student does not spend all of his meal money by the end of the year, he or she cannot get that money back.
Bon Appetit adjusted the meal plans when they took over DePauw's dining facilities from Sodexo for the 2013-2014 academic school year. The Hub became an all-you-care-to-eat, one-swipe buffet. In the past, the Hub operated in much the same way as the Den, offering all items a la carte.
First-year Emma MacAnally was surprised to find that she has a large surplus of money left on her card. She attributes the sum to not eating at the Hub Café as much as other people might, denying her the steady expenditure of money.
"I guess I don't eat three meals a day, and I don't really buy expensive things, just snacks," MacAnally said, "but I feel like I eat a lot, so it's confusing."
Students can choose to use their Tiger Cards in several locations on campus. The Hub and Den supply meal foods. Two West and The Fluttering Duck serve restaurant-style meals. Café Allegro, Café Roy and Hub Express offer "grab and go" snacks and coffee.
Buying coffee every day seems to make a big difference in the spending balance for others, MacNally added, but that is not something that she does.
First-year Eleanor Price is experiencing the same issues as MacAnally.
"I go to the Den mostly and buy a la carte things," Price said. "I don't really eat large lunches, just mostly go to the Café Allegro."
She added that it would be nice to have that money go toward tuition.
"Maybe they should have a new dining system," Price said. "The current one is expensive. It's good in that you can get more food if you need more, but I don't need that much food."
While all first-year students are required to get a meal plan of either $2,985 or $2,535 for the year, many upperclassmen students do not have meal plans at all. Most receive their meals in their greek houses, cook their own food or choose to eat elsewhere. If they do have a meal plan, often it is significantly smaller than the meal plan that is required of all first-year students. Rector Village residents can downgrade their plans to $2,180 per year, and students living in University houses and apartments can go as low as $520 per year.
"I like cooking for myself more because I can make what I like, there are more flexible hours and I feel I get more value for my money," said junior Kat Raymond-Judy, who has the University-Owned Apartments and Houses (UOAH) plan, which is the smallest meal plan DePauw offers. "It's nice to have some money in account for snacks, if I'm in a rush or for things I don't know how to cook myself, but I like having less."
Bon Appétit is looking for more ways to spend the extra money in addition to the options they currently offer.
"We're having a truckload sale in May," said Maria Russ, who works at the Hub. "Students can also spend through pizza parties and barbecues and FOHTY [From Our House To Yours] meals-cold food students can order to bring back to their dorms and microwave."
Most of these options, Russ said, will be available next week.

-Julie Block also contributed to this article