In a way, chicken dinners are almost like a rite of passage in the first year of college.
The idea is that a student would arrive for lunch, find out what the school is about, and then head off to dinner, where they’d learn more about the school and its mission.
For some schools, this seems like a reasonable way to build connections.
But others say the dinners are just a waste of time and money.
“The idea that you’d spend $300 to $400 on a dinner is not only irresponsible, it’s an enormous waste of money,” said Roberta J. Hirschberg, the executive director of the Higher Education Leadership Council, a nonprofit that advocates for higher education.
In a new report, Hirschburg and her organization warn that colleges and universities have been overcharging students for lunches in order to lure in high school freshmen.
For years, students have had to pay for lunch on the first day of school, with no guarantee that they’d be able to get a full meal the next day.
But with students paying for lunch through their parents’ payroll deductions, they’re being left with less to eat for dinner.
A recent analysis by the Center for American Progress found that about 40 percent of students attend at least one of the three meal programs offered by colleges and other private institutions.
Hiring for these programs has been so difficult that, last year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that the average starting salary for new hires in the U.S. was $42,800.
“If you can get people to spend a few extra dollars for lunch and dinner, then you can create more opportunities for students,” said Hirschberger.
“You get more value out of that.”
In order to attract students to attend these programs, colleges have tried a few different approaches to lure them in.
One is to give out free meals or lunch packages to students.
At some colleges, this can be a successful strategy, because it attracts students who might otherwise be on their own.
“We see a very small number of students who actually come to these events and then say, ‘Hey, I want to stay and work for the rest of my life,'” said Katie B. Sussman, a senior researcher at the National Center for Education Statistics, who has studied lunch programs.
At other colleges, there’s no clear way to gauge students’ interest in the programs.
But at the high schools that offer free lunch, some students say they’ve had to go to extremes in order for the programs to work.
One year, a student at a suburban Los Angeles high school, for instance, told her parents she had a boyfriend and that she wanted to become a nurse, but that she couldn’t afford the full tuition.
When the school offered her a meal for lunch instead of paying for it herself, she said, she didn’t even bother to show up.
“I think it’s really tough for high school girls to make choices,” said her mother, Michelle Susser.
“They want to be a part of something that’s special.
They want to make friends.”
At the same time, many schools say they’re making students wait until they’re 18 or 19 to apply for scholarships.
Many of the free meals offered are offered at community colleges, which offer students in grades 7 through 12 a chance to stay in school until they graduate.
The colleges also often offer special events, including a bake sale or a movie screening, in order that students have the opportunity to interact with other students before and after they get to class.
At one such event, the school held a “cocoon dinner” on campus to get students to think about their peers.
Students were encouraged to eat out and drink wine and beer, which were free.
In some cases, students said, the dinners have been too expensive.
For example, the college at which the student was studying, the College of William and Mary, offered a $50-per-person dinner to a group of incoming freshmen.
At a later meeting, after the group had been seated for about 20 minutes, the dinner was moved to a separate location to accommodate more students.
But that same evening, after dinner, some of the students told their parents that they were “sick of waiting.”
The college declined to comment on the specifics of the dinner, but said it would not offer the same event again.
The next day, the students were back at school, and they said that the school did not change the plan.
Some students also said they were concerned about the fact that some colleges were charging more for meals than others.
For instance, at the University of Maryland, Maryland, the cost of a meal can vary by as much as $10, a fact that was not disclosed in the report.
The school’s website says it charges $30 per person for a single course of study.
At the University in Chicago, Illinois, the average cost of food for an