This semester, the University introduced a new initiative providing undergraduate students on the unlimited meal plan with $150 worth of dining points per semester to purchase food and beverages at select on- and off-campus locations. The aim of the program was to provide “an opportunity for students to connect with each other and the town of Princeton without having to worry about paying out of pocket,” according to an email sent out by the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) on Aug. 22.
The Daily Princetonian spoke with several first-year and sophomore students — all automatically enrolled in the unlimited meal plan — to get a sense of the Princeton Pay with Points scene.
“I like them,” said James Sowerby ’26. “I’ve used them a couple of times on campus — for the Frist Cafe especially — because it’s super convenient. It also helps me to budget my money because I know what I have allotted for one semester, so it’s easier to keep track of what I spend and where than if I were to use cash or credit cards.”
Natnael Alemayehu ’26 also expressed support for the program.
“It’s really beneficial for those who might lack the resources to dine at Nassau [Street] or some other stores,” Alemayehu said. “[Dining points are] a great initiative by the school to ease the economic class divide that is inherently strong at Princeton.”
Beyond multiple students reporting that the dining points initiative provided them with a source of financial relief, the implementation of this novel program also motivated Princetonians to venture beyond the FitzRandolph Gate.
“I think they are a good way to encourage getting off-campus and exploring the town,” added Sowerby. “I primarily use mine at Small World. But I am looking forward to other places [dining points] will possibly be extended to.”
Other students shared in this desire for more variety of restaurants participating in the program. “I wish we had more options,” said Feruza Mukhammadieva ’26. “It would be especially great if they added Junbi and Fruity Yogurt, and if they increased the amount of money allotted to us.”
Mukhammadieva said currently she only uses the dining points at Small World Coffee. “I would suggest adding, say, Starbucks too. If we look at it from a student point of view, this is something that would be popular,” she said.
There seemed to be a common love for Small World Coffee among dining points users at Princeton.
“I haven’t tried using them anywhere else,” Mukhammadieva said. “Honestly, I think the stuff in Frist Cafe and on campus is overpriced in general, which means the amount of money given to us is not sufficient enough.”
“I really do believe increasing the amount [given to students] would be nice. I know that’s asking a lot, but if we think about Princeton’s annual budget, even $200 would be better for students and not too much more on the University’s part,” she continued.
Referencing the global inflation that has sent food prices soaring, some students said they believe it would be necessary for the University to increase funding for the program.
Jackson Crocker ’25 had further suggestions on how the system could be changed, particularly in terms of who the initiative benefits. He believed the dining points initiative should prioritize upperclassmen over underclassmen if the University is able to offer this opportunity to only two years of students.
“Underclassmen have late meal and unlimited dining swipes, while upperclassmen don’t have them, so it would be nice to be able to go to late meal and use dining points,” Crocker said.
Sam Eggert ’25 said the dining points initiative ultimately shows that Princeton is prioritizing granting students greater financial flexibility.
“As someone who is concerned about every dollar that I spend, it’s nice that I can go to Nassau Street and not have to pay — I really am grateful that I can get more use out of my dining plan,” Eggert said. “I do wish it was more money though. And in an ideal setup, I would be able to substitute my number of swipes for [dining points].”
Despite having some constructive criticism to bestow, Princeton students overall seemed pleased with the new USG initiative and were making good use of it.
“I love dining points,” said Zoe Mermin ’25. “I normally go to get ice cream at Halo Pub or Bent Spoon, or sometimes to Small World. I like that it feels like a special treat out of my normal routine, but I don’t have to spend money on it.”
Sofiia Shapovalova is a contributing writer for The Prospect and a Copy Editor at the ‘Prince.’ Please direct corrections requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.