Photo by Ben Lipford – Students have many meal options throughout the day and into late hours, ranging from American food to Mediterranean cuisine.

Earlier this year, dining made several high-profile changes to the meal plans.

These changes were made in order to simplify and clarify the plans’ overall structure and make it clearer where the plans can be used.

The first change was to the meal plans that provide access to all Tech Dining locations including the food court, Subway and Starbucks.

The Ramblin’ meal plan, which started about three years ago, was replaced with Dining Dollars—usable at all Tech Dining locations. These funds will roll over from the fall to the spring semester, but because of structure, rules and regulations, will unfortunately not roll over to the next academic year.

Another change was to the freshman meal plans, which all on-campus first year students are required to have as part of the Freshman Experience.

The plans were simplified for better understanding, leaving fewer but more flexible options. These new plans include four options: Freshman Flex, Freshman 12, Greek Access 5 and Dining Dollars. These meal plans have been modified from last year’s five available options, the All Access 400, the All Access, the Limited Access 14, the Limited Access 10 and the Greek Access 5.

“Through focus groups and hearing feedback from students, parents and faculty over the last few years we had two big issues we were trying to solve,” said Rich Steele, Senior Director of Auxiliary Services.

“One was that our freshman meal plans were too complex… and also the name Ramblin’ created a lot of confusion because people didn’t realize that they were only for GT Dining locations around campus,” Steele explained.

The so-called voluntary meal plans available to upperclassmen were also modified.

There used to be seven different voluntary meal plan options including All Access 400, All Access, Limited Access 14, Limited Access 10, Social Access 75, Ramblin’ 450 and Ramblin’ 250. These have been winnowed to five different options including All Access, Access 14, Access 10, Social 75 and Dining Dollars.

The simplification was done in part to make it clear that the Access passes have access to all three dining halls as the name implies. The Access plans also include $150 in Buzz Funds.

The Dining Dollars option offer a variable amount from $100 to $750 declining balance funds which can be used at any Tech Dining location. Declining balance funds refers to accounts which keep track of the dollar amounts spent as apposed to visits to a dining hall. The stand-alone minimum purchase is $200 and the plan will also feature an eight percent tax savings and a ten percent dining bonus for amounts of $300 or more.

Major changes to meal plan options, such as these, have not been made in the last three years, since the institution of the Ramblin’ meal plan was introduced. However, GT Dining believes that these changes were necessary to help clarify any previous miscommunications and provide the best value.

Prices for these meal plans did increase across the board. For example, the All Access meal plan is now offered for $1,996 with $150 of Buzz Funds included. The comparable meal plan of the previous year, the All Access, was offered at $1,757 and the All Access 400 plan, which came with 400 Ramblin’ Dollars, was offered at $1,997, with $100 in Buzz Funds.

Steele attributed these increases to annual cost increases.

“We see significant [cost] increases every year in food costs, operating expenses including utilities, and maintenance as well as labor,” said Steele. “What we tend to look at is our peer schools and our goal is to be in the average of those schools…. There will always be some increases but we’re trying to keep it as modest as possible and keep everything as affordable as possible.”