Is Dining Dollars a Wise Investment?

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

Dining Dollars poster. Photo by J. Manuel Rivera Cortes.

Lehman’s Dining Dollars, a system first implemented in the fall of 2016, offers students tax-free meals and 5 percent back for every $50 they deposit. The program has the potential to help alleviate the financial burden that many Lehman students experience. However, its two major incentives, tax-free dining and bonus dollars, may not be enough to convince the student body to buy into it.

Students can enroll by downloading the Blackboard Transact eAccounts app from the App Store or Google Play.  They can then use their Lehman logins to access their Dining Dollars accounts and add funds to their cards through any cafeteria cashier or at kiosk stations located on campus.

Director of Administrative Operations, Diane Clarke, stated that, “Students are able to save more from [tax-free] dining than the bonus dollars of the program.”  But while the program promotes savings of approximately $150 every semester, many students are unaware of its existence. 

“Never heard of it,” said senior English major Nelson Fernandez.

The price, quantity, and quality of the food offered at the cafeterias may explain the low enrollment.  “It sucks,” commented Crystal Jackson, a CUNY office assistant for the School of Education. “The quality isn’t worth the price. They’re overcharging us for garbage.”  

Lehman senior Alice Tharay, an English major, agreed: “[The food] is mediocre for the price we have to pay. [It’s] worth less than we pay.” 

Junior Davidia Boykins, a biology major, said, “I feel that the food is delicious but overpriced.”

The average price of a simple breakfast like coffee and a bagel with cream cheese can range between $2.75 and $5.50, while lunch and dinner costs from $6.85 to $11.75. As a result, students are upset that the quality of the meals is not worth the weekly financial burden.  High prices and subpar quality cause students to purchase food off campus.

Another downside to Dining Dollars is that it requires students to use up the entirety of their funds before the end of the semester or forfeit them to the system.  Senior Yesnuel Ramirez, a Computer Information Systems major, exclaimed, “That’s unfair, man. That’s actual dollars spent. Tangible money. If it doesn’t roll over, where does it go?”

Lehman senior and film major Robert Velasquez disagreed: “It’s a good program…If you forget your cash, you’re able to use the card to buy some food.”

Junior Waverliey Torres, a Biology major who has used Dining Dollars in the past, commented: “It’s nothing amazing.  I don’t really eat at the café too often anymore, so I don’t know how much I’m saving.”