Do College Meal Plans Save Students Money? | best colleges (2023)

  • College meal plans average $4,500 per academic year.
  • This is well above the average cost of groceries.
  • Meal plans can save students money—if they use the plan wisely.
  • Compare meal plan fees to grocery costs to see if a meal plan will save you money.

A college meal plan gives students access to on-campus dining at dormitories, student centers, and other on-campus restaurants. Depending on the school and meal plan, you may receive unlimited meals or a limited number of meals each semester. Many schools also offer flexible dollars for students to spend elsewhere.

But do college meal plans save students money? The answer depends on your school, your meal plan, and local food costs. is an ad-supported website. Featured or Trusted Affiliate Programs and any school search, location, or match results are for schools that pay us. This compensation does not affect our school rankings, resource guides, or other independent editorial information published on this site.

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How Much Do College Meal Plans Cost?

Are meal plans worth it? It depends how much they cost. after aArticle from the Hechinger Report 2017, College meal plans average $4,500 per academic year (roughly eight months). That's more than a single person typically spends on groceries, which equates to about $3,990 a year.

The cost of a meal plan depends on the school. At some schools, particularly those that require freshmen on campus, students staying in dormitories must pay for a meal plan. In addition, some meal plans do not cover all meals.

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At many colleges, students pay a fixed number of meals per semester, which can be as high as eight meals a week. Even after paying for a meal plan, students often face additional meal costs. Additionally, students who pay for a meal plan may have to pay for meal expenses during breaks.

Before signing up for a meal plan, students should consider whether it is worth the cost.

10 Cost of College of Schools Meal Plan

How Much Do College Meal Plans Cost? See how much students pay for meal plans at five public and five private universities.

University of Michigan Meal Plan

NOUniversity of Michigan, Students living on campus must sign up for a meal plan. The university offers several options, including unlimited basic boarding for $1,249 per studentsYou can also sign up for a meal plan for the same price. Both meal plans offer the option to add Dinner Dollars to the base plan.

University of Virginia Meal Plan

UVAoffers meal plans for dorm and dorm students and student athletes. First-year students should choose the All-Access plan, which costs $2,890 to $3,130 per semester depending on the number of flexible dollars. Each plan offers unlimited meals in addition to meals for guests.

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University of Florida Meal Plan

NOUF, campus students can sign up for meal plans in residential areas. The university also offers transit plans with multiple options. Off-campus students pay anywhere from $230 to $790 per semester, depending on the meal plan option. On-campus dining options range from $1,765 to $2,300 per semester, depending on the number of meals and flex money.

University of North Carolina Meal Plan

UNCoffers student meal plans on campus ranging from $1,622 to $2,627 per semester. Off-campus students can also purchase a meal plan$300 to $668 per vacation.

University of California, Berkeley menu

NOUC Berkeley, living in the housing estates as a doctoral student includes basic meals at no additional cost. Upgrading to a flexible $500 unlimited plan adds $475 per studentsYou can also purchase a meal plan for $250 to $3,380 per semester, depending on the option you choose.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology meal plan

KOMStudents can pay for a meal plan for as little as $125 per semester, or as high as $3,404. Residents can purchase a food block or unlimited meals each semester. MIT also offers off-campus student meals at a discounted rate.

Rice University meal plan

Rice UniversityStudents choose a meal plan based on how much they plan to eat on campus. Residential students must enroll in the $2,400 per semester plan. Off-campus student options range from $600 to $1,400 per semester.

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New York University menu

NONYUFreshmen, visiting students, and transfer students living on campus must pay for a meal plan. Costs range from $2,131 per semester to $3,227. The cheapest plans have eight on-campus meals per week, while the most expensive plan has 19 meals per week. Off-campus students can purchase a cheaper meal plan, which costs $1,546 per semester.

Princeton University menu

NOPrinceton, Undergraduate students pay for the unlimited meal plan for the first two years, which costs $7,670 per year. Junior, senior, and graduate students can purchase a discounted meal plan, which costs $2,975 and offers 105 meals per semester.

University of Southern California meal plan

USC students living on campus spend3.465 US-Dollar bis 3.955 US-Dollarin meal plans. Most of these plans include unlimited meals in the living lounges in addition to meals for guests. Off-campus students can choose from options ranging from $417 to $790 per semester. These plans include between 25 and 50 meals in dormitories, as well as dollars for meals that students can use elsewhere on campus.

Do College Meal Plans Save You Money?

Can a college meal plan save you money? The answer depends on the cost of food in your area and the cost of the meal plan. Most students can probably save money by skipping the meal plan and eating most of their meals at home.

However, off-campus dining can quickly add up. If you tend to eat out a lot and don't like to cook, an on-campus meal plan can save you money.

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Some schools require dormitories to pay for meal plans. In other cases, students should consider the cost of food in their area and the cost of the school menu to find the cheapest option.

create a budget

Before deciding on a nutrition plan, college students shouldcreate a budget. Calculate all of your expenses, including regular expenses like housing, transportation, and tuition. Then look at categories like entertainment. Finally, calculate the minimum amount you need to spend on groceries. Then decide which option best suits your budget.

Find out the cost of groceries in your area

Grocery costs vary greatly by region. How much does groceries cost near you? Check out the resourcesaverage acquisition cost by stateto estimate how much you need to plan for groceries. Or check local grocery stores and track your spending.

Determine if your financial support applies to meal plans

Most students think that financial aid only covers tuition. But the mostfinancial assistance plansalso apply to eligible educational expenses that include room and board. For example, borrowers can use federal loans to pay for on-campus meal plans. Students can also use loans to pay for groceries if they live off campus. Likewise 529College Savings Planscover meal expenses.

Some forms of financial assistance do not cover meal plans. For example, certain scholarships and grants apply only to tuition costs. Contact your school's financial aid office to learn more about using financial aid to pay for meal plans.

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Balance the convenience of a college meal plan

College meal plans come in handy, especially for students who spend long hours on campus. Instead of packing meals or looking for off-campus options, a meal plan can save students time. And for students living in dormitories, there's no more convenient option than dining on-site. In addition, some schools offerfirst class dining rooms.


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