Central Michigan University students will only use a projected 75 percent of their meal plans this year.
This number comes as part of the annual budget for residences and auxiliary services, which is approved by the Board of Trustees each spring.
“For purposes of developing a budget, we have umpteen years of experience,” said John Fisher, associate vice president of Residence and Auxiliary Services. “We know from experience, and usually things stay the same from year to year. We know we are going to have 75-percent participation overall.”
Based on years of data, Fisher and his staff estimate student meal usage, or participation, yearly. This means when room and board rates are set, the figures already reflect missed meals by students.
“The amount of meals eaten is part of the criteria that goes into figuring out our expenses,” Fisher said. “If our participation rates go up, our costs will go up. If we know the participation is going to go up, it has to be factored into the cost of food. The rates already allow for missed meals. That’s why there are no such things as refunds on missed meals.”
Out of CMU’s four main meal plans, Fisher said the weekly 10-meal plan has the best participation rate. Students are more likely to skip when they have the 14 or 16-meal plans. As for the cost of missing meals, there is essentially no loss to the student, because the missed meals are already factored in.
Though food is one of the main costs in a meal plan, it’s not the only expense covered by the rates.
In 2011-12, food costs made up 10 percent of the expenses covered by room and board dollars. Other expenses, such as direct wages, utilities, maintenance, supplies and debt services were all larger than food costs.
“We are self-sustaining. We have to make this a business operation that supports itself, because there (are) no tuition dollars going into this operation, and there is no state funding going into the residence halls,” Fisher said.
Any money the Residences and Auxiliary Services makes is put into the non-general fund. This fund can be used to pay for new residence halls or cover expenses in the budget.
This year, the department is projected to have a revenue of $68.2 million before expenses. According to university projections, a total of $1.9 million will go into the fund after expenses.