The Cost of Eating at College Can Be High: Student Meal Plans Explained

At this point in the semester many students have lost faith in their meal plans.

Every Western Illinois University student living on campus is required to have a plan.The rates for these meal plans start at $1,875 per semester for the basic option. The cost is billed to the students tuition. The money is then loaded onto the students ID card. The ID is used like a debit card for purchasing food from any of the dining locations here on campus. Students are able to add additional funds to their accounts at anytime.

Most, like Chris Reyes are low on or have completely run out of funds.

“I think it’s stupid how expensive most of the food is,” says Reyes.

He signed up for the basic meal plan option. He feels the high dining hall prices are taking advantage of the students who are already paying thousands of dollars for dining and living.

Chris, like many other students says he had to stock up on groceries in order to make it through the rest of the semester.

Ideas on why the prices are so high range from being a result of the two-year budget impasse crisis the state has faced, to the idea that the school knows most residents only have the option of eating on campus so they choose to make the prices high to get more money out of the students.        

However, this is an issue that is not due to the budget impasse or the idea that the school is out to bleed students’ pockets dry.

Ketra Russell, the assistant director of budget for W-I-U, says that the reasoning for these inflated dining hall prices is a result of the amount Sodexo charges for their food as well as the cost to operate the kitchen and hire a staff to cook and serve the food.

Sodexo is the food catering company that is in charge of operating all dining locations on campus including those located in the University Union.

The food company Sodexo decides on portion sizes for each meal.

The university housing and dining has final say on how much they charge the students. 

Here is some food for thought on how to budget your meal plan carefully for future semesters.

A basic rule of thumb that Ketra suggests is to start with the cheapest option and, “if needed you can add additional funds to your account.”

The housing and dining facilities have researched the meal plans and found out students eat about twelve to fourteen meals a week. Ketra also mentioned that, “one third of all meal plan students get some type of refund at the end of the year.”

Sodexo kitchen staff figures out the pricing out how much each student receives. Housing and dining management makes the final say in how much a meal would be for a student.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Ketra Russell at 309-298-3305 or email her at

Happy swiping!

 By: Marcellus Angel and Gina Brocato