Captree Commons on the Selden campus of Suffolk County Community...

Captree Commons on the Selden campus of Suffolk County Community College on July 30, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

Suffolk County Community College's top attorney said Thursday the college has not yet signed a final contract with its new food vendor and is seeking to make the new mandatory $200-a-year meal plan fee a temporary pilot program to determine how it works.

Louis Petrizzo, college counsel, disclosed the new terms the college is seeking after student Alyssa Zayas of Brentwood criticized the new fee as a hardship on students who are often working two jobs to pay tuition and buy books. "It's a shame that Suffolk is putting business first instead of their students," she said Thursday at a trustees' meeting.

Trustees authorized SCCC to negotiate a 10-year contract with Aramark Educational Services LLC, which proposed the mandatory fee that will raise $2.4 million. School officials earlier said the fee was a way to ensure sufficient sales volume for the vendor to make investments to give students wider food choices, including national restaurant chains such as Starbucks and Chick-fil-A.

The college already is billing 12,000 students for the new meal plan on the Brentwood and Selden campuses and has sent out new ID swipe cards that can be used to purchase food under the new program.

Petrizzo said another provision calling for students to forfeit unused meal plan fees at year's end cannot be applied to students who pay with federal Pell Grant money. Petrizzo said federal rules require those students -- about 60 percent of those covered by the new meal plan -- to be reimbursed for any unused funds. Because so many students are affected, the college is considering reimbursing all students for unused funds, he said.

New student trustee Maria Gomez said she has no personal issue with the fee because she expects to spend more than $200 in the college's cafeterias. However, she said she plans to speak to more students to determine what can be done for those who dislike the mandatory plan.

Also Thursday, several officials of the Bay Shore-based Muslim Center of Long Island appealed to trustees to waive $5,000 in college fees so the organization can hold a prayer vigil outdoors on the Brentwood campus next month. Trustees waived their normal rule to give the officials a chance to speak, but put off taking a position on the request until SCCC staff can report back about the implications of granting a waiver.

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