Students wonder about MDining plans after Housing refunds

Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 6:20pm

.

Design by Jonathan Walsh

As students leave campus at a rapid pace in accordance with University of Michigan guidelines, some are worrying about the last-minute move-out costs as well as services from the University they have already paid for but will no longer be able to use.

University Housing sent an email on Friday announcing that students who move out of the campus dorms by March 25 will receive a refund of $1,200. A petition calling on the school to cover the costs of “unplanned travel and moving expenses” had more than 1,700 signatures as of Wednesday night.

While the Friday email entails how to receive the refund, the question of refunds for student meal plans remained unanswered. However, Steve Mangan, senior director of MDining, wrote in an email to The Daily that the refund University Housing is offering for $1,200 includes the unlimited meal plan.

“All students living in Campus Housing, who have moved out and left campus, have been offered a $1200 refund for their Housing and Dining plan for the Winter semester,” Managan wrote. “Due to the variety of options for off-campus meal plans, refunds for students with Optional Meal Plans are being evaluated and we will be reaching out to each Optional Meal Plan holder in the near future.”

Students planning on receiving the University Housing refund should not expect to receive an additional refund from MDining. The email from University Housing states the refund will come from the University Housing contract, which includes a meal plan selection. 

LSA freshman Ari Richardson lived in East Quad Residence Hall, which reported a case of COVID-19 among one of its cooks last week. Richardson said she was unaware the University Housing refund included the meal plan, adding that MDining should have given options to students regarding their meal plan due to the different circumstances of student housing. 

“I believe that students should have the option to either have them refunded or carry over into the next year,” Richardson said. “Because then you’ll have seniors who aren’t going to use them anytime soon and already paid for this. If you don’t get it back, that’s just the University taking money.”

Richardson also said her primary concern with MDining was about her leftover Blue Bucks and Dining Dollars.

“My main problem when it was time to leave was that I had a bunch of Dining Dollars and Blue Bucks leftover,” Richardson said. 

While Blue Bucks are refundable and automatically transfer from year to year, MDining is still evaluating its options in regard to Dining Dollars.

Students who had optional meal plans should expect to hear from MDining about their individual circumstances, as each case will be evaluated for a refund. 

LSA sophomore Alec Bayoneto lives off-campus but has the 55 Block optional meal plan. This plan costs $1,432 for the fall and winter semesters, and when Bayoneto left campus, he said he had 17 unused meal swipes left. As of Wednesday, Bayoneto said he has not received any emails from MDining regarding a refund for his optional meal plan. 

“I know that we’re all struggling right now to handle everything,” Bayoneto said. “If they reimburse us, that would be one less thing to worry about right now with readjusting to the way things are with everything that’s going on. For plans like mine, you can see how many swipes you would’ve had left. It's about $12 a meal, so they can just easily total that up and give you back an exact amount.” 

LSA freshman Dominic Colletti also lived in East Quad. Colletti said he was glad University Housing was reimbursing students but questioned the logic behind the amount they were offering. He speculated the prorate for the room alone would be close to $1,200 at the cheapest rate and said many students are not on the cheapest rate for room and board.

“I think there’s absolutely no reason not to prorate. It’s a little trickier because, with housing, everyone’s already signed their contract and already paid with dining,” Colletti said. “It gets a little trickier with students who have off-campus meal plans because a lot of them have used a lot of their meals … I can foresee that being more complicated, but unlimited meal plans should be just prorated plain and simple. Divide the rate by however much time is left in the contract.”

Students who are staying in the dorms should not expect any change in the price of their meal plans. According to Mangan, changing the meals from dine-in service to take-out boxes does not interfere with their ability to provide meals during the week and on the weekends.

“Michigan Dining continues to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner every day with brunch and dinner being provided on Saturday and Sunday so there will be no change in meal prices,” Mangan wrote.

Richardson said even though everyone is working to adjust to extreme new changes, she thinks University services still need to be accountable to students.

“I understand that a lot of departments in the University are scrambling to figure out what to do and we’re all struggling, but that doesn’t take away from that fact that there’s still a program that has a responsibility to provide for the students,” Richardson said. “So when they can’t provide meals anymore, we should be compensated in some way.”

Reporter Jasmin Lee can be reached at itsshlee@umich.edu