Starbucks to accept dining dollars as meal plan options expand in 2020

Beginning in the fall 2020 semester, University of Nebraska-Lincoln students will be able to use dining dollars at the Starbucks in the Nebraska Union as a part of their 2020-21 meal plan options.  

According to University Dining Services director Dave Annis, the dining dollar prices will be the same as the regular Starbucks prices. Additionally, dining dollars will be available for use at the East Campus Starbucks that is projected to open in the Nebraska East Union in the spring of 2020.

In the future, Annis said he wants the meal plans to be compatible with other restaurants in the union as well. However, he said these changes will take time because of their impact on the budget.

“When a student uses their meal plan in the union, that money doesn’t come back to Dining,” he said. “We’re working with the union to get a percentage of the sale back.”

Annis said his ultimate goal is for students to have universal use of their meal plans wherever there is a restaurant on campus.

“It may take us five or seven or 10 years to get there, but we’re starting with the first steps,” he said. “I’d much rather start slow and build than have to cut back.”

He said the Starbucks at the union is an ideal place to start because it is owned and operated by the union under Student Affairs. Most other vendors at the union are third party vendors. Since Starbucks is a university entity, Annis said it’s easier for Dining to coordinate with them. 

Following the change, Annis said he expects to see about a 30% increase in sales at the Starbucks.

“It makes things busier because now students that maybe didn’t have the cash money to go buy something … [who thought,]  ‘I have a perfectly good meal plan, why can’t I use that?’ well, now they can,” he said.

Junior biological sciences major Brooklyn Housh was standing in line at Starbucks when she learned about the change.

“That’s super cool,” she said. “It’s nice because if you’re not totally hungry to go back to eat somewhere, you can get a bite to eat here.”

She also said she believes it will be beneficial because, right now, she pays a lot of money for college, a lot of money for a meal plan and a lot of money for Starbucks. Now, she’ll be able to use her meal plan toward a morning coffee.

Sophomore music major Aleia Kumm agreed.

“It sounds like a great idea  because a lot of people don’t have extra money,” Kumm said. “Especially since it’s already in the meal plan, it would be really helpful to keep the financial burden away.”

Annis said he is excited about being able to offer students another location to use their meal plans.

“The portability of the meal plan is important to me,” he said. “I think the more places a student can use their meal plan, the more value there is to their meal plan.”

This article was modified at 5:37 p.m. to correct Dave Annis' title.