Special Reports

Four Reasons Why College Food is Distastefully Expensive


Students today face various financial problems while in college, causing many of them to get student loans, try out part-time jobs, or look for cheaper housing alternatives. Aside from tuition, one more thing that costs expensively in college is food.

TIME reports that according to campus dining contracts the U.S. Department of Education has collected, the average college charged an average of $7.50 per meal per student. This is significantly higher than the average cost of food for Americans who live on their own- at about a little less than $4 per meal, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The amount varies depending on the school. Wellesley College in Massachusetts, for example, charges each student $7442 for food per year, which means each meal costs about $12. This amount is charged for one of the facilities students themselves are using. One student, while eating his made-to-order meal, says it's not worth the amount he pays for it.

Why is the cost of college food so expensive? University officials and other experts looking into the issue give four key reasons:


Americans cooking for themselves at home don't need to pay themselves for the effort. Colleges, on the other hand, pay workers to do the work. From purchasing ingredients to cooking and serving the food to washing the dishes and cleaning the cafeteria, colleges need to pay their workers, said National Association of College and University Food Services president Amy Beckstrom.


Eating at home means using whatever is in there. Colleges need to provide silverware to dining areas that need funding. Beth McCuskey, president-elect of the Association of College and University Housing Officers International, says schools have to charge students for the facilities they themselves will benefit from.

Student Demands

Students who demand to eat high-quality food need to pay more. Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor at Temple University who studies the cost of college, says some students demand high-quality and more expensive food options, but all students ultimately pay the price for that.


Some colleges that face budget cuts or don't have tuition hikes opt to raise revenue through auxiliary services, which include cafeterias and other dining areas, bookstores, and parking lots. For many schools, dining halls provide significant amounts of profit.

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