Families paying more for N.C. campus meal plans

Jan. 10, 2014 @ 01:49 PM

Local universities have been fielding calls from students and parents wondering why they’re paying more for campus meal plans this year.

As of Jan. 1, a state law took effect that repealed a sales tax exemption on “prepared food and food served to students in dining rooms regularly operated by state or private educational institutions or student organizations thereof.” The exemption had existed since at least 1957.
In Durham and Orange counties, meal plans are now taxed 7.5 percent, the combined state and county rate. 
At N.C. Central University, students’ meal plans increased by $9 to $122.18 this semester due to the state legislation.
Tim Moore, NCCU’s director of business and auxiliary services, said students were notified about the meal plan increases starting in November, through email, the NCCU food services website, student forum discussions and in the spring semester tuition and fees bill.
Some students raised concerns about the rate increase and its effect on the cost of attending school, Moore said.
NCCU’s most popular meal plan is “Plan R,” which provides 14 meals per week with $275 flex dollars, money that students can use at all dining locations on campus. The original price of the plan was $1,500 per semester, but now it costs $1,612.50, Moore said.
Waiting for the bus outside NCCU’s student union Wednesday afternoon, sophomores Alicia Jones and Ashley Wilson said they both now must pay about $100 more for their campus meal plans due to the sales tax addition.
“They’re just stealing our money,” Jones said. “...We eat pizza, fries, every day.”
“It’s definitely not worth what we’re paying,” Wilson added.
At Duke University, students were notified of the change by email as well as public notices in the school paper and on its website, according to Robert Coffey, Duke’s director of dining services. The H meal plan, for first-year students who are “moderate eaters” and had cost $2,925, now will be $3,144.38.
UNC-Chapel Hill also has heard from parents and students wondering about the increase.
Mike Freeman, UNC-Chapel Hill’s director of auxiliary services, said his office explains that the price increase wasn’t the university’s choice.
“We definitely were not in favor of this, but it’s basically a repeal of a tax exemption,” Freeman said.
UNC meal plans have increased by $74 to about $142 because of sales tax, and Freeman said they are trying to keep their university-mandated meal plan cost increases low from year to year, between 3 and 4 percent.
UNC’s most popular meal plan, in which students receive 100 meals and $200 flex dining dollars, now costs $1,248 with tax included.
For the upcoming fall semester, UNC-Chapel Hill may be looking at raising meal plan costs by an additional 3.5 percent due to fluctuating food costs.