Ripon College dining hit by inflation

Students and Sage impacted by rising prices

Sage employees have a conversation in the Commons. Photo Courtesy of Bryson Patterson

As local and global economies face heavy inflation, Ripon College dining has seen significant changes in pricing. Students have seen prices rise greatly, especially at the Wilmore Center, The Spot, and Starbucks. 

Many students have reported seeing the remaining balance on their meal plans run lower far earlier in the semester than in past semesters, and cite rising prices as the cause. 

As of mid-November, the current inflation rate in the United States is at about 7.7%, up from the 5.39% consumers saw this time last year. 

Dean of Students Chris Ogle agrees that the school has been hit hard by inflation, which now affects Ripon’s food service provider. Sage, as well as the student body. 

“That inflation has caused it to be more costly for them [Sage] to get certain products, then that has gotten passed on, particularly in the Spot, Wilmore, where it’s more the point system rather than the meal swipes,” he said

Students are feeling this inflation keenly as they progress through the semester. Sophomore Jacob Nelson explained that though his eating habits haven’t changed, he has far fewer points and swipes by this time in the semester compared to past semesters. 

This semester has been harder to conserve money than it was last fall semester. With the swipes and points being the complete same but with inflated prices at Starbucks and The Spot, it has made it easy to fall low on points. Therefore, I had been using swipes at the Commons significantly more often than I should have, causing a huge problem where I need to watch my swipes and my points,” he said. “Compared to last year, I had no worries about my points because going to Starbucks 5-6 times a week didn’t affect my balance significantly, but now it’s consuming most of my points. The increase in costs makes it hard for students on the 90-Block plan to manage our swipes because we don’t have that much wiggle room to go The Commons without using most, if not all, of our swipes.” 

Anna Bauer, a junior, also feels as though inflation has significantly affected her dining on campus. 

“Personally, I have been struggling with the meal plan this semester. I am not spending more than I have in the past but yet I have less points. I usually end with extra points left and extra swipes but I most likely will not after this semester. It has been alarming to see how fast my points get spent so then I go to the commons,” she said. “Now I have less swipes because of that as well and I am worried about being able to eat on campus for the rest of the semester.”

Ogle explained the nature of the college administration’s relationship with Sage and how they are approaching this situation. 

“It’s a contract service. We enter an agreement with them, agree on terms of costs and what the offerings are going to be. And then we work with them regularly,” Ogle said.  

Sage’s executive team is continuing to work closely with Ogle, as well as the rest of the college’s administrative team, and has been to a Student Senate meeting to discuss meal plans. 

“One of the things we’ve talked with Sage about is to carefully watch to see what food prices are doing. And just as they had to increase prices as they went up, if those food prices come down, we expect their prices to come down concurrently with that,” Ogle said. 

Ogle also proposed a new tentative meal plan, to be introduced possibly next semester or next year. This plan would include more points than the current maximum of 1,000 points, and fewer meal swipes in conjunction. Details on this have yet to be finalized. 

For the rest of the semester, it is unclear whether or not prices will drop. 

“Who knows? You know what could happen with climate and other things, unpredictable parts of seasons, but that we’ll watch carefully and I will push them [Sage] hard if we see that the consumer price index is coming down that we would expect to bring prices back down,” Ogle said. 

As prices have risen, many students report needing to rely on other friends to cover their meals as the semester progresses. Others feel they will need to add more Rally dollars to their meal plans.