Towson, Goucher offer off-campus meal plan

Students buy accounts to use at local restaurants

April 28, 2003|By Abby Foster | Abby Foster,SUN STAFF

CLARIFICATION

An article in yesterday's editions about the Tiger Meal Plan, a privately owned and operated food plan available to college students, should have said neither Goucher College nor Towson University endorses the plan.

Students who commute to Towson University and Goucher College and who don't want to pay for the traditional meal plan have a new option, one that allows them to patronize local restaurants.

"The idea is to get students into the community by going to restaurants they like," said Brandon Lloyd, vice president of expansion for Off Campus Access, the company that administers the Tiger Meal Plan -- named for Towson's mascot.

Towson began using the plan in August to open more dining options to students and foster good relations between businesses and the university, officials said. Goucher initiated the program during the spring semester.

The plan works like this: Students sign up online, over the phone, or by mailing in a form, and receive a card in the mail. They deposit a set amount of money on the card and each time they eat at a participating restaurant, the amount is subtracted from the balance on the card.

Emily Burgess, 21, an art history major who commutes to Goucher from Baltimore, likes the variety the Tiger Meal Plan offers.

"I think it's a good thing, and I wish more places offered that option," she said, adding that she finds it "very helpful to actually be able to eat pretty good food."

Hal Blatt, a sophomore at Towson University who also commutes from Baltimore, signed up for the plan after seeing a flier on campus early this semester. While it allows him more options, it also provides "an excuse to get my parents to pay for me to eat out," Blatt said jokingly.

Students living on campus at Towson must purchase a traditional meal plan, said Dick White, director of dining services at Towson. Although the Tiger Meal Plan is available to students living on and off-campus alike, it might prove less useful to students who have to buy a meal plan from their college.

The card only can be used to purchase food and may help students budget more effectively, officials say.

Lloyd said 1 percent to 3 percent of eligible students typically participate in the plan the first year it is instituted. By the third year, that number generally grows to 15 percent.

Participation at Towson falls below those figures, with about 200 students participating. About 10 students have signed up at Goucher, officials say.

An employee at Cluck U Chicken on Pennsylvania Avenue said the Tiger Meal Plan has been good for business; about 50 students have used their cards there since September. The Subway on York Road takes in about $60 a week from the program, but participates because the Tiger Meal Plan "is convenient for students," according to a manager there.

Restaurateurs return 10 percent of sales from the plan to Off Campus Access.

The company is undeterred by the relatively low participation rates at the two local colleges.

"We're in for the long haul," said Mike Dolezal, a spokesman for Off Campus Access, adding that the Tiger Meal Plan will be in effect for at least three or four more years.

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