Last week, University of Wisconsin housing announced a new policy that mandates all dorm residents place no less than $1,400 on their Wiscard for use only in the university dining halls. Since then, students, parents and other community members have come out against the plan with concerns about religious and dietary restrictions, affordability and the loss of competition between university dining halls and other, more cost effective options.

Though a campus policy may seem to exist in an entirely different universe than those constructed in Washington, D.C., this policy, at it’s core, is flawed much in the same way many of our governmental policies are. Eight years ago, the Obama administration forced millions of Americans to pour hard-earned money into health care plans they did not need and couldn’t afford. Under the mandate instituted by the “Affordable” Care Act, Americans were forced to purchase plans that they didn’t necessarily need or couldn’t afford.

Back on campus, after instituting this new policy, University Housing Director Jeff Novak stated, “The more students dine with us, the more affordable it is.”

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If this logic sounds familiar to you, it’s because it is.

Proponents of the “Affordable” Care Act claimed that health care coverage would be affordable, that you could keep your plan and that you would have options under the system. But, under Obamacare, premiums are rising and Americans continue to lose options, yet are still mandated to purchase plans that are less than affordable.

University Housing’s plan is no different. The plan forces students to spend a large sum of money on food that they may not want, or need, to purchase. Madison is rich with very affordable and delicious options beyond dining halls, that may better serve the needs of students. Students residing in University Housing should have the freedom to choose what type of establishment best meets their dining, financial and religious needs.

This plan also discourages competition. If food served in the dining halls was seen as the best option on campus to purchase food, University Housing would have no problem selling more food. However, other businesses close to campus have taken advantage of the market of hungry college students and have introduced different kinds of food at a price students can afford.

This competition would usually force University Housing to innovate their menu and produce food that better meets the needs of students. Instead, they have chosen to mandate that housing residents spend $1,400 at University Dining halls, effectively taking away the opportunity for free market competition to flourish.

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In many ways, the flaws associated with the new University Housing policy can be directly compared to Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act takes away the chance for the health care market to meet the needs of Americans when they are forced to buy unaffordable plans from a very small pool of options that aren’t necessarily tailored to them. Instead of encouraging competition between insurance companies to provide top-notch plans for those who are both healthy and those with preexisting conditions, the government instead mandated fixed rates.

Like Obamacare, the University Housing policy assumes that they know the needs of students instead of letting individuals choose the path that best meets their needs. And like Obamacare, those mandated under the plan will likely suffer the consequences.

Alesha Guenther ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science, journalism and mass communication. Guenther is the Deputy Communications Director for the College Republicans.