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Up to 40% hike in meal plan prices for NUS students living on campus

Some National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduates living on campus in the upcoming semesters starting August will soon have to fork out up to 40 per cent more for their meals in hostels.

Students staying in halls, residential colleges and the NUS College are required to subscribe to meal plans, which cater breakfast and dinner for six days a week. They are not allowed to opt out.

There are no such plans in other universities like Nanyang Technological University which also has hostels.

For those staying in halls of residence, including Sheares Hall and Raffles Hall, students have to pay $664.85 for the meal plan in the first semester of the upcoming academic year starting in August, with meals provided for 108 days.

This is about $200, or more than 40 per cent, higher than the previous price. In documents seen by The Straits Times, a student staying in Raffles Hall paid $462.24 for the first semester of the academic year starting in August 2021. The price did not change in 2022.

The other halls of residence are Eusoff Hall, Kent Ridge Hall, King Edward VII Hall and Temasek Hall.

A typical dinner usually consists of carbs like rice, a choice of meat and vegetables, along with soup, fruits or desserts.

For residential colleges such as Tembusu College as well as NUS College residences, which include Cinnamon Wing and West Wing, students will have to pay $1,137.24 for the meal plan when the semester starts.

This is about $219, or 23 per cent, more than the last academic year’s price of $918, posted on Tembusu College’s website.

In response to queries, an NUS spokesman said the price of meal plans for halls of residence have not changed since 2019, while those for residential colleges have remained the same since 2017.

Other residential colleges are the College of Alice & Peter Tan, Residential College 4 and Ridge View Residential College.

In an e-mail to hall residents in May, NUS said that global supply chain disruptions, the war in Ukraine and climate change have driven food prices up across the world, making it “necessary” to review and adjust the meal plan rates.

“Whilst the price increase under the current climate is inevitable, rest assured that the University will work diligently with the appointed caterers to push out the plans for more dining improvements in the best interest of our residents,” the e-mail said.

Some NUS undergraduates told ST that they felt the price increase is too steep, and would have preferred a more gradual increment.

A soon-to-be second year student, who wanted to be known only as Ms Goh, said that the new rates are “quite a big jump” from last year.

“But if the food provided in the upcoming school year improves in terms of quality and variety, the rise in price may still be considered reasonable,” said Ms Goh, 20, who will be staying in Temasek Hall in the upcoming semester.

“If the quality of the meals remains the same, I can’t help but feel slightly cheated for paying the hike,” she said.

Instead of making them mandatory, some students think that meal plans should be optional.

Another student, who wanted to be known only as Ms Tan, 20, said there are other food options available, which may be cheaper.

She will be a second year student come August, and will be staying in Sheares Hall.

“Many of my friends prefer cooking their own meals or eating out,” said Ms Tan. “Some of my friends also frequently go home for meals.”

Ms Tan added that she personally cooks most of her own meals to reduce costs and only eats the meals provided not more than three times a week.

Ms Samantha Lai, 20, who will be staying in Cinnamon Wing for her second year of studies, said although she tries to eat most meals provided, some of her friends have no choice but to eat out due to external commitments while some do not have the habit of eating breakfast.

“The price that they end up paying for what they actually eat in the dining hall becomes unreasonable from that point of view,” she said.

Despite the price hike, some students think the benefits of staying in hostels outweigh the financial costs.

Mr Sng Peng Jing, 21, an incoming freshman who will be staying in Tembusu College, said while the increase can be daunting for students who fund their own university fees like himself, it is not enough to deter him from wanting to experience staying on campus.

“I believe that staying in a residential college can increase my chances of making friends. Since the increase in meal plan prices is still financially viable to me, I would continue to stay,” he said.

To ensure that students have the “full NUS experience regardless of their financial circumstances”, NUS said it has doubled its financial aid for students since 2022.

“Students from low-income households will continue to receive financial assistance from the NUS Enhanced Financial Aid Scheme which helps to fully fund their tuition fees, and defray living expenses, on-campus stay including meal plans, and overseas exposure programmes,” said its spokesman.