Best Dining Plan Options for UMD’s Off-Campus Students

By Uyen Nguyen
For Unwind magazine

In previous years, an apartment dining plan that cost less and was more flexible than the standard meal plan was offered to students who lived in apartments or off-campus housing.

This has all changed, however, with the beginning of the fall 2016 semester. Along with the Dining Services revamp, the apartment plan has been replaced with a five-day Anytime Dining plan and “blocks of Dining Dollars,” according to Dining Services.

The five-day plan costs $1,899 per semester, according to the University of Maryland’s official Dining Services website.

This plan gives students unlimited access to the dining halls on the weekdays, but provides no access to them on Saturday or Sunday. Even with this limited access to the dining halls, this plan is $328 less than the base seven-day Anytime Dining plan. Both the five-day plan and seven-day base plan do not include any Dining Dollars, which have replaced Terp Bucks, according to the Dining Services website.

food truck

Photo by Hayden Williams

If students opt for the Dining Dollars in addition to Anytime Dining, students can purchase seven-day dining plans. Seven-day plans that include these Dining Dollars range from $2,407 to $2,567, depending on how many Dining Dollars the students receive, according to the Dining Services website.

Junior criminal justice major Shelby Pittman says she considered getting a dining plan because she didn’t want to make the trek back to her apartment in South Campus Commons between classes simply to eat. However, Pittman de

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Many students have decided that it’s easier to make their own food.

cided that she would fare without the dining plan when she saw its price.

“I spend about $100 a month on groceries, which is way cheaper than the dining plan,” she said. She then added that, including going out to restaurants and buying snacks from time to time, her personal food bill would probably be “$100 more a month.”

Each semester is about four months, so Pittman would only spend around $800 on groceries alone during a school year. If she did buy the dining plan, however, she would spend an additional $1100 on food.

An increasingly popular option for off-campus students in the wake of the dining plan change is Terrapin Express. Terrapin Express works at all of the food court options at Stamp, as well as the convenience shops and cafes around campus. Students can choose from a predetermined amount to put on their account, and it works just like Dining Dollars.

Junior accounting and finance major Michael Zhan, who also lives in South Campus Commons, revealed a misconception about students who do not purchase a dining plan. These students do not eat a majority of their meals out at restaurants, he explained. According to Zhan, students who don’t go out to eat often shouldn’t get the dining plan, but if they do then it might not be “all that much cheaper.”

“I only went out to eat twice since the start of the semester,” he says.
Pittman did not buy any Dining Dollars because the prices of items at the convenience shops on campus are typically “triple or double [the] store prices,” she said.

Senior economics major Mike Madonna, a student employee at 251 North, said that Dining Services has “to deal with a lot of kids stealing, so that raises the prices” of the plans and convenience shops items.

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One off-campus student opts to make food in her apartment.

Madonna says the new dining plans are great for students who typically run out of points before the end of the semester, but wouldn’t recommend them to students who aren’t required to get them.

“Personally, it’s cheaper to eat at home,” he says.

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