University Dining Decisions: Do College Students Make Rational Decisions in the Market for Meal Plans

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Struble, Matthew
Rational Decision-Making; Purchase Behavior; Dining; Meal Plan
thesis / dissertation description
When students come to college they take on many responsibilities their parents used to cover for them, including making significant purchase decisions. My research examines the dining plan purchases of students at Texas A&M over time to determine whether these students make rational, utility optimizing decisions. I look to see if students change their purchase behavior after becoming familiar with the system, and after evaluating their prior purchase decisions. Also, I examine whether students alter their purchase decision based on where they live in a given semester. This study finds that students do, indeed, make decisions that allow them to optimize in the future. This is an important question in that it examines whether students naturally possess the ability to make wise, rational decisions, whether they develop this ability during college, or whether they enter and leave college unprepared to make such decisions. If students are unable to optimize, perhaps some sort of standard decision-making curriculum should be added to the core curriculum at universities to better prepare students for life after college. The potential positive externality this could create would benefit society in the long run.