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Mandatory Meal Plans

Recent studies show that the “freshman 15” is more hyperbole than myth.

A study published by Dr. Nicole L. Mihalopoulos, Dr. Peggy Auinger and Dr. Jonathan D. Klein in the Journal of American College Health hypothesized students who live on campus gain weight during their first year of college. The results confirmed this but not to the extent of the “freshman 15.” In the sample studies, male students gained an average of about 4 pounds while their female counterparts gained an average of about 2 pounds during their first year.

“The exact causes behind these changes are unclear and warrant further research to plan or improve intervention and prevention,” said Dr. Daniel J. Hoffman in a similar study at Rutgers University.

Another study, conducted at Auburn University by Sareen S. Gropper, Karla P. Simmons, Lenda Jo Connell and Pamela V. Ulrich, found that 70 percent of the college students sampled gained weight not just during their freshmen years but also throughout all four years of study.

The study concluded, “the increasing prevalence of obesity and normal weight obesity among this college population suggests the need for additional health promotion strategies on college campuses.”

Cindy Miller, assistant director of marketing, communications, and technology for Ball State Housing and Residence Life, says the university does many things to promote a healthy lifestyle.

“There’s certainly programs we encourage [students] to get involved with,” Miller says. “Either through the activities through the rec center, we also have fitness rooms that are sort of [miniature] versions of the big fitness rooms at the fitness center that are in all of our residence halls.

Physical activity or the lack there of are not the sole factors in the common weight gain experienced by many college students. The studies also suggested that students’ eating habits and the type of food available to them might have some part in college weight gain.

Students at Indiana’s public universities agree there are healthy food options available on their campuses, but it’s up to the students to whether they choose healthy options or not.

“The buffet style definitely affects student eating habits simply because of [the] variety and quantity available,” says Jackie Reising, a senior at Purdue University. “I think I got my money’s worth since I could eat as much as I wanted.”

The structure of Ball State’s meal plan can cause students to overeat, says Joe Hannon, a junior at Ball State University.

“With the way the amount of the meal swipe is set up, people try to spend the entire $8.40, regardless of if they really want the extra food. And often times, if it's on their tray when they check out, they'll eat it then, regardless of if they're still hungry after eating the rest of their food,” he says.

Dining and meal plan options at Indiana public universities are as different as the universities themselves, but they all have one thing in common: students who live in the residence halls are required to have a meal plan.

Some schools combine their meal plans with their housing rates while others require students to purchase their dining and housing plans separately.

Meal plans at Ball State are part of students’ room and board costs because on-campus students have to have a meal plan, Miller says.

Hannon says he doesn’t believe he gets his money’s worth with Ball State’s meal plans because $8.40 can get you more at the store than it can on campus.

“That being said, there are more individually packaged items here than you would find at your local Wal-Mart, but it is still frustrating to see some things sell for what an entire box of those would sell for at the store,” Hannon mentions.

Emily Miles, a sophomore at Indiana University doesn’t like that her school requires students living on campus to purchase a meal plan.

“It's just another way the university can ring the change out of our pockets. Dorms are outrageously priced because they made the rule that freshmen have to live there, and it's the exact same way with meal plans,” Miles says. “Personally, I see the meal plan as a major deterrent to living on campus.”

Indiana University as well as the University of Southern Indiana are a couple of the universities in Indiana that require students living on campus to have a meal plan but allow them to purchase it separately from their room and board.

USI sophomore Megan Lucas says she no longer has a regular meal plan because she felt she was wasting her money.

“It's cost effective if you know how you personally eat. You definitely need to know how it'll suit you best. Mine is all munch money because I never eat enough for the allotted meals, so I lost money technically,” Lucas says.


Students living in residence halls at University of Southern Indiana have three meal plan options, according to USI Dining Services. All the meal plans cost the same amount, $2,020 per semester for the 2016-2017 academic year. However, students can choose to allocate their meals and extra money for dining, called Munch Money at USI, differently.

University of Southern Indiana’s on-campus meal plans (per semester)

  • Red

  • Cost: $2,020

  • 14 meals per week

  • $375 Eagle Munch Money

  • White

  • Cost: $2,020

  • 11 meals per week

  • $435 Eagle Munch Money

  • Blue

  • Cost: $2,020

  • Nine meal per week

  • $595 Eagle Munch Money

At Indiana University, meal plans work more like spending actual money with a credit card. Students at IU can purchase food almost anywhere on campus using I-BUCKS. According to IU Residential Program Services, RPS, unused I-BUCKS rollover from semester to semester and year to year as long as the student purchases a meal plan at IU.

Indiana University’s on-campus meal plans (per academic year)

  • I-BUCKS 60 Max

  • Cost: $4,300

  • 2,320 I-BUCKS

  • I-BUCKS 60 Plus

  • Cost: $3,800

  • 1,820 I-BUCKS

  • I-BUCKS 60 Standard

  • Cost: $3,300

  • 1,320 I-BUCKS

Ball State University’s meal plans are more similar to those of USI, but each meal plan is a different price. According to Ball State Dining, students are given an allowance per meal and can use Dining Plus, Dining Cash or Cardinal Cash, which work like credit cards, to pay the difference. Additionally, when students sign up for a 2-year housing contract, they receive an extra $50 in Dining Plus. Students do not purchase their meal plans separately from their housing at Ball State, and rates are different depending on residence hall and room type.

Ball State University’s on-campus meal plans (per academic year)

  • 21 Meal Plan

  • Cost: $10,244 - $13,478

  • 21 meals per week

  • $75 Dining Plus

  • Any 18 Plus Meal Plan

  • Cost: $10,162 - $13,396

  • 18 meals per week

  • $75 Dining Plus

  • Any 14 Plus Meal Plan

  • Cost: $9,816 - $13,050

  • 14 meals per week

  • $100 Dining Plus

  • Any 10 Plus Meal Plan

  • Cost: $8,970 - $12,204

  • 10 meals per week

  • $100 Dining Plus

Purdue University provides buffet-style dining which students can use meal swipes on. According to Purdue Dining and Catering, students who have either of the two unlimited meal plans also receive guest meal swipes. In addition to meal swipes, Purdue has multiple retail locations on campus where students can use Dining Dollars to purchase food outside of the designated meal times and buffets.

Purdue University’s on-campus meal plans (per academic year)

  • Boiler-Flex Unlimited 500

  • Cost: $5,398

  • More than 20 meals per week

  • Unlimited access to campus dining locations

  • $500 Dining Dollars

  • Boiler-Flex Unlimited 250

  • Cost: $5,172

  • More than 20 meals per week

  • Unlimited access to campus dining locations

  • $250 Dining Dollars

  • 13-Meal Track

  • Cost: $4,554

  • 13 meals per week

  • $459 Dining Dollars

  • 8-Meal Track

  • Cost: $2,998

  • 8 meals per week

  • No Dining Dollars

  • Boiler Block

  • Cost: $4,292

  • 246 meals per academic year

  • $450 Dining Dollars

Indiana State University dining uses credits for its meal plans. According to Indiana State Dining, each meal plan comes with a given number of credits, and each meal time period costs a specific number of those credits. Students at ISU also receive Commons Cash, which is similar to Ball State’s Dining Plus. Also similar to Ball State, ISU includes the cost of the standard meal plan, which is the Flex 10 meal plan that comes with $102 of Commons Cash per semester, in the room and board prices.

Indiana State University’s on-campus meal plans (per semester)

  • Flex 10

  • Cost: included in room and board

  • 1360 credits per semester, about 10 meals per week

  • $102 Commons Cash

  • Best Flex 12

  • Cost: $74.80 plus standard plan included in room and board

  • 1734 credits per semester, about 12 meals per week

  • $102 Commons Cash

  • High Flex 14

  • Cost: $122.40 plus standard plan included in room and board

  • 1972 credits per semester, about 14 meals per week

  • $102 Commons Cash

  • Non-Flex

  • Cost: room and board minus $192.10

  • 10 meals per week

  • No Commons Cash

Students attending Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis have the fewest meal plan options of all the public universities in Indiana. Freshmen at IUPUI are given two meal plans to choose from while those of sophomore standing or higher in the residence halls are offered a third option, according to IUPUI Auxiliary Services.

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis’s on-campus meal plans (per academic year)

  • All Access 7 Day

  • Cost: $3,911

  • Unlimited meal swipes every day

  • $50 Dining Dollars

  • 5 bonus meal swipes

  • All Access 5 Day

  • Cost: $3,911

  • Unlimited meal swipes Monday through Friday

  • $150 Dining Dollars

  • 5 bonus meal swipes

  • 14 Per Week

  • Cost: $3,700

  • 14 meal swipes per week

  • $150 Dining Dollars

  • 5 bonus meal swipes

  • Not available for freshmen

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