MIT Dining finalizes meal plan options for 2020-2021 academic year

First years in dining hall residences can choose between 19 meals a week or a 225-meal block plan for $3,160

MIT Dining has finalized its meal plan options for the 2020-2021 academic year.

The Division of Student Life website writes that starting this fall, first-year students living in dining hall residences can choose between 19 meals a week with eight guest swipes or a 225-meal block plan with $150 dining dollars for $3,160. 

Upper-level students living in dining hall residences will be required to purchase a 190-meal block plan for $2749.50 or a 125-meal block plan for $1,900, the website writes.

Stu Schmill ’86, dean of admissions, wrote in an email to The Tech that MIT Student Financial Services “will increase the budget… for financial aid to cover the most expensive meal plan.”

The price of the top meal plan increased six percent from the 2019-2020 academic year, MIT Dining Director Mark Hayes said in an interview with The Tech. Hayes added that a six percent increase is the “maximum allowed for the financial aid calculation.”

Hayes said that other than the percentage price increase in the top plan, “we weren’t quite sure how the other meals would come out in terms of price per meal.”

The increase to $15.20 per meal for the 125-meal plan “fell out in terms of calculations in the models,” an increase of “just under seven percent,” Hayes said.

Hayes said that the annual price increase in prices originates from factors including food, labor, and maintenance costs.

The 225-meal plan with no dining dollars was previously planned to be the high-end option, according to the presentation at the Dormitory Council (DormCon) meeting Feb. 20.

Students raised concerns that 225 meals “might not be enough” for athletes, leading to the decision to keep the 19 meals a week plan, Hayes said.

The $150 dining dollars was included with the 225-meal plan because the two first-year options needed to be “a little more equitable” for the same price, Hayes said.

Hayes said that the $150 dining dollars would give first years more flexibility “and then maybe some dining dollars to use around campus.”

Additionally, Hayes said that making the dining dollars completely optional would create “more tiers,” which would not “work with the phase model approach that we’re trying to put into place.”

An initial goal of the Meal Plan Working Group was to shrink the range of the price per meal from the previous $9.60–$14.20, Hayes said.

However, Hayes said that “equitability” between the meal plan costs was less important to students based on DormCon and other meetings.

Hayes said another issue raised at DormCon and the open forum March 2 was “the need to really focus on food quality.” 

MIT Dining met with Bon Appetit “to look at individual house chef and management teams” to determine the need for additional culinary training or restructuring, Hayes said.

Hayes said MIT Dining initially discussed how to structure culinary training “over a number of weeks” with staff returning at the end of July and beginning of August. 

Hands-on, in-person culinary training is “on hold” because of COVID-19, Hayes said.

During CP★, a virtual CPW for the Class of 2024, MIT Dining hopes “to continue the full disclosure” of “all of the information that is available” about the new meal plans to parents of admitted students, Hayes said.

Hayes said that the MIT Dining’s CP★ talk will include “the meal plans phasing in over the next couple of years so there’s no surprise.”

Hayes said that discussion regarding Burton Conner residents’ concerns about moving into dining hall dorms has been put on hold due to MIT’s COVID-19 response. 

The topic is “very important,… so it’s not been forgotten,” Hayes said, adding that MIT Dining will “circle back to it.”

Additionally, housing is “waiting to see how the lottery plays out” with the BC moves and “see what that data is showing,” Hayes said.