Spring 2016 Editorial Board
Each semester, Auburn students who live on campus are forced to pay $995 for a meal plan and off-campus students pay $300 for theirs.
Students are being synthetically induced to increase demand for university-sanctioned fast food restaurants such as Chick-fil-A, Papa John’s and Panda Express.
This reduces competition, and therefore harms the people Auburn University ostensibly aims to protect: the students.
In a more competitive market, student demand could increase for a variety of reasons: changes in consumer income, changes in price or changes in consumer tastes.
These fluctuations occur naturally from market forces and push the market toward equilibrium, the point in a market in which demand is met with equal supply, thus leaving producers and consumers generally happy.
This point occurs from voluntary exchanges, not mandated exchanges.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
Forcing the students to purchase meal cards serves only to protect the success of Tiger Dining.
It doesn’t serve to provide students with easily accessible food options. We must not conflate the idea of having more monopolistic food options provide convenient food locations with the idea that only those entities are capable of providing such amenities.
In short, the mandatory meal plans create a more monopolistic, less competitive food market on campus, and that’s bad for consumers.
This less competitive market discourages variety in food options, lower food prices and decreases food and service quality. All of these effects carry an obvious detriment to students.
We believe that if we are forced to pay for a meal plan, we ought to have more options available for us.
Therefore, we believe the meal plan should be extended to local restaurants downtown.
Such a relationship between the University and local restaurants would provide more options when it comes to choosing meals and bring local businesses revenue that would have been lost to on-campus restaurants.
For instance, instead of only being able to buy an entire pizza at Papa John’s for approximately $6, students could go to Little Italy downtown and get a big slice of pizza for $2. Students could also save money by buying food from McDonald’s Dollar Menu instead of buying Chick-fil-A.
While not a perfect system, this would lead to a more competitive market. Adding downtown restaurants to the meal plan would also benefit those on health diets and those who can’t eat gluten.
If the meal plan extended to local restaurants, students would be able to eat at healthier venues such as Taziki's, Newk’s or Pita Pit.
In addition, students would be able to take advantage of the gluten-free options in downtown restaurants such as Mellow Mushroom.
Adam Smith wrote one of his most famous lines in his “The Wealth of Nations”: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”
Auburn University and Tiger Dining have conspired against the students, and we believe measures to mitigate this issue should be considered.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman