Temple University Blames Steep Meal Plan Hike on Soda Tax

Officials say the tax will cost the university $400,000 a semester, according to the Inquirer. But the city's not buying it.
Morgan Hall at Broad and Cecil B. Moore | Temple.edu

Morgan Hall at Broad and Cecil B. Moore | Temple.edu

Temple University officials plan to raise board rates by 4.8 percent for 2017-18 – and they say the soda tax is to blame.

The Inquirer reports that the sweetened beverage tax the city passed last year will cost the university $400,000 a semester, according to Ken Kaiser, the school’s chief financial officer. 

Combined with a separately proposed 1.6 percent increase in board cost, which would reportedly cover contractural obligations, board rates will increase by more than 6 percent next year – and the minimum meal plan will cost $1,444 a semester, the newspaper reports.

The changes were approved during yesterday’s Board of Trustees meeting, which was conducted over the phone because of the winter storm.

The soda tax, which helps fund pre-K expansion, community schools and parks and recreation, has remained a contentious subject as business across the city report negative impacts – citing sales drops, layoffs and lagging tax revenues. Earlier this month, Pepsi announced that the company would lay off 80 to 100 Philadelphia employees as a result of the tax. But some have pointed out that business might be a little too quick to blame the soda tax on changes that customers – or students, in this case – might not be happy with.

Lauren Hitt, a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney, told the Inquirer that she wasn’t buying Temple’s excuse for board hikes.

“The beverage tax is becoming a popular scapegoat for unpopular decisions,” Hitt told the newspaper.  “Universities across the country have been raising meal-plan fees because families are increasingly chafing at tuition increases, and universities still want to pay for their ever-growing administrative salaries and new, expensive buildings and amenities.”

“Temple’s own administration staff has grown by 40 percent in recent years; they are planning to build a multimillion-dollar stadium; their new 24-story dorm includes flat screen TVs; and, sure enough, they have a history of raising their meal-plan fees to cover those costs – by 2.5 percent in 2015 and 4.3 percent in 2014,” she added.

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