For next year, Quad will match the fees charged to full members with whatever amount the University charges for an unlimited residential college meal plan. According to the Princeton Prospect Foundation, Quad currently charges members $8,000 for the year. The press release noted that the cost of an unlimited meal plan for the current school year is $5,473.
According to Quad Graduate Board chairman Dinesh Maneyapanda ’94, both new members and current junior members will be eligible for the reduction provided they sign a contract with Quad for the next year. He also said that the sophomore fee will be reduced from $500 to $400, though the PPF website lists the current sophomore fee at $700.
Maneyapanda said that the primary goal of the reduction was to attract and retain students who wanted to be members of Quad — or of an eating club in general — but did not have the financial means to do so.
A member of the Task Force on Relationships between the University and the Eating Clubs, Maneyapanda said he noted that many students interested in being in an eating club were either dropping out or not joining in the first place because of financial concerns.
Currently, the University makes an effort to subsidize the cost of joining a club by increasing the financial aid packages of all juniors and seniors who receive aid. Though Maneyapanda acknowledged that as an alumnus he is grateful for and proud of the University’s financial aid program and the fact that it makes an effort to partly subsidize the cost of joining a club, he noted that the current design still leaves some students with a difficult choice.
“While it makes it more affordable in some sense, it also means that a student who’s on financial aid has to make a choice,” Maneyapanda said, noting that a student may think, “I can spend that extra $2,500 on Quad, or my family can spend it on heat and electricity.”
University Vice President and Secretary Robert Durkee ’69, who led the Task Force, said he thought Quad’s new plan was an “interesting experiment.” While he noted that the allowance the University adds to upperclassmen’s aid has encouraged some students to join clubs who otherwise could not have, he has spoken with students who would be more able to join a club with a more significant fee reduction like the one Quad is implementing.
“This may help test whether there are students who would like to be in a club and have been dissuaded because of pricing,” Durkee said.
However, the price reduction may also be an effort to attract significant new membership to Quad, as the change comes at a time when membership in Quad is lower relative to other clubs on the Street.
In recent years, Quad has been the only club not to provide The Daily Princetonian with exact sign-in numbers, claiming in the past two years that the total was “comparable” to that of the previous year. In 2009, it is estimated that around 50 students joined Quad.
Maneyapanda declined to provide the current membership level. According to last year’s club photo composite, the club consists of slightly over 60 members.
It is unclear whether the club is sustainable at current levels.
Maneyapanda said that while they were not the main goals, ensuring the financial viability of the club and increasing Quad membership levels also factored into the graduate board’s decision.
“That’s certainly another reason that we’re exploring changes like this,” Maneyapanda said. “All the clubs have their ups and downs over the years.”
After the release of the Task Force’s report in 2010, Durkee said that there was currently only enough undergraduate interest to sustain nine-and-a-half clubs, though he made it clear that he was not sure which club in particular this lack of interest could hurt.
Especially with Cannon’s reopening bringing the total number of eating clubs up to 11, Durkee said that Quad’s move was an attempt to increase membership in its own club by increasing interest in the club system as a whole.
“That analysis was based on existing cost structure and membership; there were several variables in there,” Durkee said of the 9.5 figure. “What this experiment is doing is changing one of the parameters. If you change one of the parameters, maybe you get some additional students joining the clubs that would certainly help to sustain more clubs.”
Maneyapanda said that because the change is aimed at students who wouldn’t otherwise have joined an eating club, the fee reduction indeed aims to change the student interest parameter of the Task Force’s analysis.
“We believe that increasing the pool of students who join the club system is going to be a net positive for everyone,” Maneyapanda said.
Maneyapanda noted that though the board had run models and was financially prepared for a possible dip in the club’s revenue, the goal of the fee reduction is to pique enough total interest to offset the marginal loss.
“The main goal wasn’t to protect the viability of the club, it was that at the lower cost we think we can generate the number of members that we’re happy with and provide a good membership experience,” Maneyapanda said.