More than 250 Ryerson students have signed a Change.org petition urging reform of the university’s meal plan policies.
The petition, started on March 25, says Ryerson’s OneCard and meal plan policies need to change because they force students into plans they can’t afford.
Jonathan DaCosta, a first-year business management student, started the petition because, “with the lack of cafeterias and food services on campus and unconventional hours, it is next to impossible to happily use all of the $3,000 forced on your OneCard by April.”
Ryerson’s meal plan allows students living in residence to buy tax-free food. Each semester, the value of the plan is loaded onto a student’s OneCard, which can be swiped at cafeterias and coffee shops across campus.
Since meal plans are tax exempt, they are governed by Canadian tax regulations, which, according to Ryerson’s business services department, require the plans to be non-refundable and have one set period of use.
Ryerson president Sheldon Levy says there are certain limitations to what the university can do.
“We’d for sure look at it, but we have to make sure people understand that we don’t control all aspects of it, because of Revenue Canada and taxation,” he said.
According to Ryerson’s website, any funds left on the card in December can be used until April, but any money remaining afterwards cannot be transferred or refunded.
The petition states that “(Students) should always be refunded any unused plans at the end of the school year, or have it carry on through the years you attend university.”
A meal plan is mandatory for students who live in Pitman Hall and the International Living Learning Centre, but optional for those who live in O’Keefe House. Students can choose between small, medium or large plans, but the cheapest option is around $3,300 for an academic year.
“I bought what was supposed to be an average sized meal plan and I still have $1,000 left,” writes Sarah Medland, a geography student who signed the petition. “It’s really unfortunate to lose this amount of money when I still have three years left at Ryerson that need to be paid for.”
The petition also says that other Ontario universities allow unused meal-plan funds to carry over. University of Guelph, for example, allows balances to be used in the next school year.
Some University of Toronto plans provide students a refund, but they charge a $50 administration fee and the taxes for all purchases previously made on the card, since tax-exemption is then reversed.
Most Ontario schools have policies similar to Ryerson’s.