While campus dining halls offer a vast assortment of foods, when a friend suggests getting Chick-fil-A for lunch or dinner instead, it is a difficult proposition to resist. I pull out my handy Grubhub app and add my meal to the cart, perfecting every detail (Chick-fil-A sauce is a must). I carefully review my order but am hesitant to continue to checkout. Being the mindful, broke college student that I am, I check my Flex Points balance and see if a Chick-fil-A dinner is in the budget. I painfully pull up the payment options and select the Irish Card icon. It seems to load forever, but I don’t mind because I don’t want to be confronted with what I know is in store for me.
$320 in Flex Points. What?! It’s the fourth week of school — how did this happen? Well, actually, I know the answer to that question.
This is where the real turmoil begins — an internal battle with myself. Should I still get Chick-fil-A? It will just be this one time … No, that’s what I always say. All my friends are getting it, and I don’t want to go to the dining hall by myself — that’s no fun. I give in. How can I resist? I can’t.
Thinking about it though, $320 in Flex Points at this point in the year is far less than the amount I had at the same point last year. While this could partially be due to the opening of new dining options in the last year that have tempted my poor spending habits — such as Chickfil-A last semester and Flip Kitchen and Rollin’ n Bowlin’ this semester — part of this may also be due to inflation.
You may have noticed that your meals seem slightly more expensive than last year, and, maybe like me, you have also used more Flex Points than in the past. As of Aug. 2022, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased by 11.4 percent in the food category in the last 12 months. The food index is segmented into two subgroups: “food at home” and “food away from home.” The “food away from home” index tracks the changes in prices for service meals and snacks, which increased by 8 percent. Last August, we began the semester with $500 in Flex Points and prices were lower at dining institutions. This August, when prices had risen by 8 percent, we still received only 500 Flex Points.
With respect to last year, the purchasing power of our Flex Points has decreased, as we were able to buy more last year with $500 than we are able to this year. “Giving students more flex points is the general issue of inflating the price of room and board for students since ‘giving students more Flex’ has a financial cost,” said George Goldstein, sophomore finance major. “The question becomes whether or not forcing students to buy an even more expensive dining plan is a comprehensive solution. Given that the University raised minimum wages across campus to account for inflation and to equitably compensate employees, I understand why prices at the Flex locations have risen.”
Additionally, Flex Point allocation has not increased on par with Notre Dame’s room and board over the past two years. In the 2020- 21 academic year, housing and meals were priced at $15,984 together. Only two years later, the 2022-23 housing and meals cost has increased to $16,710. Despite an $726 increase in price, flex points remain at $500 per semester. Although one should not expect the entirety of the price increase to transfer to Flex Point allocation, a nominal increase would be better than nothing.
Due to inflation, Notre Dame must reevaluate campus dining prices and the allocation of Flex Points. The cost of room and board, which includes our meal plan, has increased in accordance with inflation, so we are paying more for dining, but are being given the same amount of Flex Points. How is this fair? I leave the calculations up to the experts, but in order to compensate for this, each student with the meal plan should be allocated more than 500 Flex Points per semester.