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Skip The Level One Dining Plan

Saving money when possible is a necessity for most college students, and paying close attention to how you spend at the dining halls could be a good way to balance your finances as a Penn Stater.

Connor Lent, a Penn State student, submitted a tip about saving money by avoiding the level one meal plan, which he calls a “rip-off.”

Photo: foodservices.psu.edu

As you can see in the first chart, there is a base cost of $1,385 for a meal plan of any level. Lent points out that if you simply buy dinner with either a level one meal plan or LionCash, the latter would be a much better option.

The level one meal plan gives students $640 dining dollars, which would only cover 117 dinners at $5.45 per meal. For the full cost of the level one plan — which is $2,025 — a student could purchase 150 dinners at $13.50 per dinner.

A level one meal plan makes even less sense if you plan on eating at places on campus that don’t provide the 65 percent discount. If you venture into the HUB for Chick-Fil-A (and who hasn’t indulge the craving at one point or another?), you get just a 10 percent discount.

Lent punched the numbers and found that if you paid for a $7 meal at a place like Chick-Fil-A or any of the other eateries that provide a 10 percent discount, the level one meal plan would be a terrific waste.

You’d end up paying $6.30 for said meal. But, since you can only spend $640 of the $2,025 that you’re paying for the meal plan, you have to account for the $1,385 base cost. For every dollar that you spend of the $640 dining dollars, you are actually spending over $2.16 of the base cost. 

A $6.30 meal from Chick-Fil-A would actually cost you more than $18. With LionCash, you get the same discount without having to pay any base cost.

The moral of the story is that you should probably avoid the level one meal plan unless you like to waste money.

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About the Author

Derek Bannister

Derek is a senior majoring in Economics and History. He is legally required to tell you that he's from right outside of Philly. Email Derek compliments and dad-jokes at [email protected].

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