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/ February 7, 2013
Is My NYU Meal Plan Worth It?

Enter the NYU mean plan. Though considered a rite of passage (albiet compulsory) by first-year college students living on campus, having a pricey NYU dining plan can be frustrating while living near thousands of non-NYU network restaurants. Let’s think logically through this.

With sophomore year, on-campus students can choose to opt out of a dining plan. Not surprisingly, parents often meet such a decision with a slew of questions: Will you actually save money? Isn’t it easier to just go to the dining hall? How much is a meal plan truly worth? Lucky for you, right-brained folks at NYU Local struggled through math to compare the value of NYU’s priciest meal plan to eating out. (Yes, it was a struggle, so appreciate the following breakdown.)

At roughly 15 meals per week, this plan fails at offering a well-sustained diet for the always-bustling, stressed-out college student. And while there exist meal plans alternatively structured by offering as many as 19 meals per week, let’s begin with the most expensive plan.

Directly from the NYU Dining website: 25 FLEX meal plan for $2,290

In an obvious attempt to tack on a shiny object, the Dining Dollars of any meal plan do not truly offer any special deal or value. You either spend an extra $175 for your meal plan, and then blow it all at Starbucks, or you just spend an immediate $175 at Starbucks. Thus, Dining Dollars are not relevant in the breakdown.

Subtract the Dining Dollars from the total price, leaving you with:

Inferring from NYU Dining, 15 meals at $141 each week is not enough to get a student all the way through seven days. But as it turns out, it is quite possible that a student could eat out for an entire week—meaning, not grocery shopping at all—and come out with a total bill of $141. Consider the hypothetical dining schedule below:


Breakfast: Coffee and bagel at Starbucks ($4.50)

Lunch: Sandwich with fries at Café University ($7.00)

Dinner: Flatbread pizza at Cosi ($8.00)


Breakfast: Coffee and bagel at Starbucks ($4.50)

Lunch: Salad at Au Bon Pain ($8.00)

Dinner: Cheeseburger with fries at Burger Creations ($9.50)


Breakfast: Coffee and bagel at Starbucks (It’s called a “morning routine” for a reason!) ($4.50)

Lunch: Bento box at M2M ($9.00)

Dinner: Dumplings at Excellent Dumplings ($6.00)


Breakfast: Coffee and bagel at Starbucks ($4.50)

Lunch: Space Market buffet ($7.00)

Dinner: Chipotle ($8.50)


Breakfast: Coffee and bagel at Starbucks ($4.50)

Lunch: Two slices of pizza at Pizza Mercato ($4.00)

Dinner: Entrée at S’MAC ($10.00)


Breakfast: Coffee and bagel at Starbucks ($4.50)

Lunch: Chicken and rice from the Halal guy ($5.00)

Dinner: Entrée at SoHo Sushi ($13.50)


Breakfast: Coffee and bagel at Starbucks ($4.50)

Lunch: Sandwich at Subway ($6.00)

Dinner: Three tacos at Dorado Tacos ($8.00)


Sure, NYU dining halls have many benefits and are a fantastic way to meet new people as a first-year student. But once friend groups are formed, the dessert table has already been experienced and unused meal swipes stack up, it might be time for change. Venturing beyond the walls of NYU’s dining halls in a city as large as New York and through the doors of an incredibly diverse food community, one may feel exited—and with a little bit of consideration—satisfied and profitable with regard to tracking personal finances.

And even without venturing off-campus, one can easily rack up the cost of a meal plan at non-dining hall eateries, provided, of course, that you’re the kind of NYU student who’s okay starting every day off with a bagel (which, let’s be honest, is probably the case.)

Give it a try. And also comment below with cost-efficient dining ideas for those who dare to say adios to their NYU meal plans.

[Image via Khakimullin Aleksandr /]