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OPINION: Your definitive guide to some campus resources that are and are not worth it

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Daniyal Arshad | The Daily Wildcat

The food court in the Student Union Memorial Center is a popular food source for many University of Arizona students, especially those living on-campus. As of the 2021-22 school year, UA students are not required to purchase a meal plan while living on-campus. 

With the new school year starting, many incoming freshmen only know so much about what they will need for their first year of college. Here are my recommendations of some campus resources that are worth spending on and which ones are not worth spending on.

Living in the dorms: Worth it

The students who are from Tucson have an option of whether they want to live on campus or not since they live close. There is always the option of living off-campus and renting a property, but with the average rent in Tucson being around $1,059 a month, it is cheaper to live on campus. The University of Arizona's housing website makes it easy for students to choose where they want to live, with prices displayed on the front page for both semesters.

Say you wanted to live in one of the cheaper dorms, such as the Babcock dorm. To live there both semesters would cost you $6,470. Or if you wanted to live at one a bit nicer like the Yuma dorm. That will cost $7,350 for the year. If you were to live off-campus for the average rent price, it would cost you around $9,531. That does not even include utilities, which you do not have to pay for when staying in the dorms. Each dorm is full of its own amenities and other students who are eager to make new friends!

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Meal plans: Worth it, sort of

The monthly cost of feeding one person in the U.S. is as high as about $342.50. It is even more expensive if you want to eat at a restaurant. Students are going to need something more affordable, and the UA has some school meal plans that will work.

One option is debit meal plans. With these plans, you will be spending your own money, but you will be given a discount of either 3%, 5% or 7% depending on which plan you buy. You will also save an additional 6.1% by not paying state tax. Keep in mind, though, that any unused balances at the end of the year will expire, so make sure to not put too much money in your account because you will not get it back.

The other option is a swipe meal plan, which is generally the most common at colleges. The university gives you four plans to choose from ranging from about $3,800-$6,500. You are given a certain number of swipes, with each swipe coming out to around $10. If you were to eat at a cafeteria on campus, that one swipe would give you access to all-you-can-eat food, which is a better value than groceries or eating out. Each plan gives you a certain number of swipes per week, so use them wisely. If you do happen to run out, each plan gives you dining dollars as a backup, but those do not renew per month. You can always pay to have swipes or dining dollars added on, but I recommend coming up with an eating lifestyle where you do not exceed those amounts. All but one of the plans are more than the average amount you pay for groceries per month, hence why I put that meal plans are “sort of” worth it. Still, with meal plans, you get guaranteed food every day with easy access to on-campus eateries that are safe to walk to. The price may be a bit high, but the convenience outweighs a lot of cons.

Parking permits: Not worth it

Obviously, if you are bringing your car, then you will want to buy a parking pass. If you are debating about bringing your car, I would recommend you not. Everything fun and exciting around campus is within walking distance. A parking pass for all the garages will cost you $726. A specific lot pass, meaning you can only park in that designated lot, will cost you $610. That does not even factor in gas prices in Tucson, which are $3.13 per gallon and rising.

If walking is not something you are very interested in, I recommend purchasing a U-Pass. ​​U-Pass is the public transportation service in the Tucson area, giving you access to the Sun Tran bus and Sun Link. An all-school year pass only costs $98. If you want an express pass, it only costs $130. You can take all the rides you want, and you don’t have to pay for gas. You can also take the Cat Tran, which is UA’s free student shuttle transport around select areas of campus.

Purchasing new textbooks: Not worth it

This is one purchase you cannot avoid, but seeing as how the average cost of textbooks and supplies is around $1,200 per year, you will want to find a cheaper option. That is why you should never buy brand new textbooks, ever.

The UA’s bookstore even tells students that renting textbooks is 70% cheaper than buying new books. The UA bookstore has even taken up the challenge of matching Amazon’s prices, which is a big challenge seeing as how Amazon claims students can save up to 90% on textbooks bought through them.

You will find many places to shop for great prices on books, but never do it in the “new” textbook section in the bookstore.

Enjoy your first year of college freshmen and don’t forget to Bear Down!



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Sean (he/him) is a Business Administration major from California. He enjoys playing video games and watching Disney+ in his free time.


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (9/21)
993 29 2.9%
Total (8/2)
23,557 463 2.0%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated September 21, 2021