After Backlash From City, Temple Pauses Meal-Plan Increase

The university is reportedly reviewing "the calculation and impact of the soda tax."

Morgan Hall at Broad and Cecil B. Moore |

Morgan Hall at Broad and Cecil B. Moore |

Officials at Temple University have walked back plans for a steep hike on meal-plan rates, which they claimed was a direct effect of the city’s recently passed soda tax. 

Earlier this week, the Inquirer reported that the university’s Board of Trustees passed a 6 percent increase on board rates – 4.8 of which would, they claimed, cover the supposed $400,000-per semester cost of the soda tax. The claim drew skepticism and backlash from the city – including from Lauren Hitt, a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney’s office, who said that the “beverage tax is becoming a popular scapegoat for unpopular decisions.”

The tax, which passed last year, will raise funds for pre-K expansion, community schools and parks and recreation. Since its passage, many business have been quick to blame the tax for sales drops, layoffs and lagging tax revenues – but officials like Hitt say some may be exaggerating its effects.

“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,” Hitt told the Inquirer earlier this week. “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.”

In a statement issued yesterday, Temple spokesperson Ray Betzner said the city raised “valid concerns about the accuracy of the numbers related to the impact of the soda tax” and that officials will “review the calculation and impact of the soda tax before enacting the meal plan fee for the coming year,” according to the Inquirer.

In response, Hitt told the newspaper that the city commends Temple for “acting in the best interests of their students and all the children of Philadelphia.”

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