The university will rework its proposed meal plan costs for 2017-18 after a Philadelphia spokesperson chastised Temple for using the city’s sugary beverage tax as a “scapegoat” for rising costs.
The Inquirer reported last week that the tax would cost the university $400,000 per semester and that the Board of Trustees voted March 14 to increase room and board rates by 4.8 percent as a direct result.
The Board voted to increase student housing rates by 2.9 percent for the 2017-18 academic year. There was nothing on the meeting agenda that detailed an increase in meal plan costs, but agenda references were not supplied to the public for the phone meeting.
“The beverage tax is becoming a popular scapegoat for unpopular decisions,” spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney, Lauren Hitt, told the Inquirer. “Universities across the country have been raising meal-plan fees because families are increasingly chafing at tuition increases, and universities still want to pay for their ever-growing administrative salaries and new, expensive buildings and amenities.”
Hitt added that the university had raised its meal plan prices by 4.3 percent in 2014 and 2.5 percent in 2015.
The university issued a statement a day after the Board’s meeting saying it would review the price hike before implementing new meal plan costs.
“In the wake of the Board’s action [March 14], the City and Mayor Kenney have appropriately raised valid concerns about the accuracy of the numbers related to the impact of the soda tax on Temple students,” the statement read.
According to the statement, $68, or 4.7 percent of the proposed $1,444 a student would pay for a minimum meal plan, would pay for the soda tax.
“The university enthusiastically supports the Mayor’s program to expand quality pre-K opportunities for children in Philadelphia,” the statement continued. “Its objective is directly in line with Temple’s mission to make a quality education accessible to every child.”
It is not known if any change in meal plan costs is a result of the university’s new contract with Aramark as food service provider or the July 2016 contract with Coca-Cola as Temple’s beverage distributor.
In December 2016, Michael Scales, Temple’s associate vice president for business services, told The Temple News that the university was working with Aramark to figure out how the price of meal plans would change after the tax.
In a later interview with The Temple News, Scales said the structure of meal plans could change with Aramark as well.
Scales said in January that there will not be much “demonstrable change” in the first year of the contract because Temple and Aramark “want stability.” He said students will notice the most widespread changes from Aramark begin in Fall 2018.
The tax came into effect on Jan. 1 and will be used to support public early childhood education, recreation programs, libraries and community schools.
Julie Christie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChristieJules.