Temple drops proposal to jack up price of student meal plan

Temple University hastily reversed course on declaring that Philadelphia’s new soda tax would forceit to raise the price of its student meal plan after receiving a scolding from city hall.

“The city and Mayor Kenney have appropriately raised valid concerns abouttheaccuracyofthe numbersrelated to the impact of the soda tax on Temple students,” university spokesman Ray Betzner said in a statement. “The university willreview the calculation and impact of the soda tax before enacting the meal plan fee for the coming year.”

Mayor Jim Kenney’s spokeswoman Lauren Hitt praised the change of course, saying the mayor commended Temple for “deciding not bend to pressure from the soda industry and acting in the best interests of their students and all the children of Philadelphia.”

Temple’s board had announced earlier this week that the total cost of Philly’s 1.5 cent-per-ounce sweetened drinks tax would add $400,000 to expenses to their room and board plan. It said the tax would result in a 4.8 percent cost-hike for students on the plan, the Inquirer reported.

But the mayor’s office strongly disagreed. At the time, Hitt accused the school of using the soda tax as a “scapegoat.”

“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 said in a statement to theInquirer.

She pointed to Temple’s finances and plans as proof of her claims.

“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 said.

In announcing the change of coursea day after Hitt’s rebuke, Temple stressed that it supports the soda tax, which Kenney has championed as a funding mechanism for universal pre-K and Philly Rebuild.

“Wewant tomake it clear thatthat the university enthusiastically supports the Mayor’s program to expand quality pre-K opportunities for children in Philadelphia,” Temple said.”This critically important program is already providing benefits to approximately 1,800 children from every neighborhood, and its objectiveis directly in line with Temple’s mission to make a quality education accessible to everychild.”

But Temple stood by its assertion that the soda tax will add an estimated $68 per student to the cost of providing a student meal plan, whether or not students drink soda and other sweetened drinks.

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