Shane Corcoran, For The Miami Student

As a vast majority of students abandon the passport meal plan option in favor of the more flexible diplomat option, Miami University has proposed eliminating passport altogether for the 2011-2012 school year.

Currently, there are 850 students on the passport plan and 6,025 students with diplomat, and these numbers continue to change each week as more students convert from passport to diplomat meal plans, according to Lucinda Coveney, director of housing contracts and meal plans.

Coveney said Miami expects 200 to 300 students to change their meal plans by spring semester each year.

She said an increased number of students have reported difficulties purchasing full meals with the basic passport meal plan at à la carte dining locations like Bell Tower and La Mia Cucina.

Unlike buffet-style dining halls where students are charged one flat fee, food items at à la carte locations are priced individually. This difference makes it more difficult for passport users to purchase full meals while staying under the assigned cash allowance. Even with additional snack accounts, students with passport still do not wield the same freedoms as those with diplomat.

Sophomore Cameron Mokas is forced to dine at à la carte locations because of his busy schedule.

“I went to Bell Tower for lunch and couldn’t even get a spicy chicken (sandwich), a small fry and a drink without going over (the price limit),” Mokas said. “I had to stand there extremely embarrassed until the kid behind me in line offered to pay for me with his diplomat.”

According to Coveney, the base rate for the passport plan is re-evaluated each year in accordance with the re-evaluation of all food-associated costs. Fluctuating with supply and demand changes and ingredient costs, prices also depend on labor, maintenance and utilities.

“The passport plan is priced with a balance between the cost of the food served in all-you-care-to-eat buffets as well as à la carte services,” Coveney said.

She said the overall price of Passport is based upon the adjusted prices of breakfast, lunch and dinner, which are currently priced at $5.50, $6.95 and $7.85 respectively.

While Coveney said she regrets problems students with passport face, she said an overhaul of dining locations has largely contributed to problems with passport.

“Passport no longer caters to the average student’s lifestyle as the majority of the school’s dining locations are being converted to à la carte food service locations in an attempt to keep up with our students,” she said.

She said eating three set meals a day has gone by the wayside as students take advantage of the flexibility à la carte dining provides.

“Passport was a great fit when all our dining locations were buffet-style, but as we continue to streamline our (dining and meal plan) system, passport isn’t as compatible,” Coveney said.

If the board of trustees approves the proposal to cut the passport meal plan, diplomat and attaché (or snack) will replace all other meal plan options.

However, the change is not yet set in stone. Coveney said discussion is essential to the decision-making process — no recommendations for changes are made before careful consideration.

The recommendation for discontinuation of the passport plan effective fall 2011 remains tentative until it’s official presentation to the board of trustees Friday, Sept. 24.