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Northern Illinois discontinues guest passes in dining halls

Andrew Hudson   ||   Sep 21, 2017  ||   

Northern Illinois will discontinue guest passes in its campus dining halls. After offering the service to students for the past three years, the passes were deemed to be both expensive and underutilized.

As reported by the Northern Star, the guest passes were previously issued to students with meal plans, with each student receiving a total of ten passes to use each semester. The number of guest passes was believed to be too great and was not in alignment with industry standards for similar programs.

In addition to cutting costs associated with providing meals to students and others using the passes, students were reporting people gathering in residence halls asking students with guest passes to scan them into the dining halls for a free meal. This situation was reported to have occurred numerous times with some instances seeing non-students asking to be scanned into the dining facilities.

The removal of guest passes isn't expected to have any significant impact on the general student population. According to stats compiled by university dining services, only 18% of students used a guest pass during both semesters last year. Further, less than 20% of students used all 10 guest passes, and a total of 500 students didn’t use any of their allotted guest passes at all.

Underpinning the end of guest passes is a falling number of student meal plans being purchased. In 2014, some 5,000 students purchased a meal plan, but that figure has dropped to roughly 3,500 student meal plans purchased this academic year.

Students are still able to bring guests into dining halls via a new family pass only now a student must fill out a request form 24 hours in advance to receive the pass.

Despite guest passes being discontinued for the 2017-18 academic year, NIU dining services insists that meal plans are reevaluated on a yearly basis. The university will monitor the new dining policies and make further assessments at the end of the academic year.

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