OSCA and CDS Are Both Rising in Costs
Whether you eat in a co-op or CDS, you have probably felt the pinch of rising board fees. Talking hard figures, the annual cost of 19 meals per week with CDS has increased from $3,450 in the ’03-’04 school year to $3,623 last year to $3,900 this year. In the same period of time, OSCA members have seen prices increase from $2,196 to $2,424.
The fact is that it is costly for a school of Oberlin’s size to operate 12 separate kitchens.
“Both of our dining options are expensive,” said Michele Gross, Residential Education’s official liaison to OSCA. “But the College has valued the programs we have and therefore supported it being expensive.”
High dining costs appear to be a given for now. But maintaining efficiency in the dining system is still a concern.
“I think there’s always opportunity for ResEd to cut costs,” said Caleb Baker, College junior and president of OSCA.
As OSCA’s main goal of “provid[ing] at-cost housing and dining” is becoming more difficult, Baker and his organization feel the need to manage rising costs acutely.
“OSCA is less affordable than it used to be,” he said.
Another concern has to do with mediating the sometimes complicated relationship between CDS and OSCA.
“The school releases students to OSCA,” said Baker. “The College could refuse to do that at any time. The only options OSCA has are to not exist or accept whatever cost the College gives us.” The cost specifically is the rent fee OSCA pays the school to use the facilities, negotiated every three years.
However, Gross doesn’t see the school driving OSCA out of existence anytime soon, although she did admit the complexities inherent in that question.
“If the 630 students in OSCA were members of CDS that would increase the size of CDS,” she said. “That would make us more efficient.”
But in the long run, the loss of OSCA would not be worth it. “We’d be losing more than we’d gain,” said Gross.
Vice President of Finance Ron Watts agreed. He characterized the relationship between OSCA and CDS as mutually beneficial.
“There is a relationship, a partnership,” he said. “OSCA is part of Oberlin’s culture.”
However, there is a possibility on the horizon of giving OSCA the option to shrink. “There was discussion on size,” said Watts. “As the College gets smaller [as dictated by the Strategic Plan] will OSCA still maintain 630 dining? We had discussed the option of reducing head count and reducing rent; they did not choose that option last time.”
As it stands now, roughly 60 percent of the fees OSCA members pay to eat goes directly to the College in the form of the rental fee, according to College junior and OSCA treasurer Imran Lalani. Hence, when OSCA fees rise, it is in response to a rise in the rental fee. And rise it has. As dictated by the three-year plan established at the last round of negotiation, the rental fee rose 4.5 percent this year to $156,014.
To combat rising prices, OSCA has introduced scholarships, and CDS is looking for ways to keep costs down.
“We’ve been trying to get the cost per meal to something acceptable,” said Gross. “We would like the cost of our meal plan to be more competitive with OSCA.”
But until there is truly a solution in the works, students will be paying
higher prices in the near future, no matter where they eat.