At Boston College, upperclassmen have two basic options for room & board – if you opt to have a kitchen, you are opting out of a mealplan. You can choose one of a few optional “Flex dining plans” or choose to buy “Dining Bucks”, but basically all these options are straight cash homie (ie they roll over year to year and can be refunded in total upon graduation). If you opt not to have a kitchen, you are signing on to a mandatory, non-refundable $2200/semester mealplan. This mealplan is kind of like buying a car – as soon as you pay the full value and drive out of the lot, the value of your car(d) instantly goes down a huge amount. People go around buying little 355 mL Odwallas for $4 a pop (that’s like 50 cents per gulp..) without feeling bad. That’s because they know $2200 is a lot for a semester and the goal is simply to use it all up (and actual cooked dining hall food sucks).

What happens junior year is this: a bunch of people have mealplans, and a bunch don’t. Those who do end up buying tons of food for those who don’t, because it’s just fake money, whatever. (I bought the smaller Flex plan and in 2 weeks I have maaybe used $30 of it. and I don’t cook.) However at some point, those who are generous with their funds are going to run low and at that point, their mealplan money is going to turn back into “real money” in their heads. But if you are ever in danger of running out of mealplan money, should it ever be considered “fake” in the first place? Whatever, that’s not my main question. My main question follows.

One of my friends has probably bought me $50 of dining hall food already. I can tell she’s getting weary, because yes, it is unfair. She could have consumed 12 extra Odwallas! I wish to pay her back by buying her off-campus food, but definitely not $50 worth. The question is, what’s the discount rate of mealplan food? If I buy her $10 at Chipotle, is that fair? What if I buy her $20 at Fin’s? $30? Additionally, does it matter that she buys for a lot of other people too (ie more in danger of running out)? What if I cook for her (even less “real money” involved, but more labor (and less tasty)). Ah, questions. Maybe I’ll just pay her in hugs. or make more underclassmen friends.