Some Lehigh students living in isolation housing after contracting COVID-19 are given a meal stipend from the university. Many students found that the stipend was insufficient to cover the cost of three meals a day. (Nora Thomson/ B&W Staff)

Students given $35 stipend to cover three meals a day while in isolation housing


On-campus students who tested positive for COVID-19 are placed in isolation housing where they are given a university stipend for dining. Initially this stipend was $25 per day and has since been raised to $35 to cover three meals a day obtained by delivery service. 

University isolation housing consists of the Trembley Park complex, House 87 and House 88. 

The university expanded the isolation housing into the Springhill Suites Hotel by the Promenade Shops in Center Valley after space on campus ran low. Mary Kay Baker, director of Conference Services, said 20 students were housed at the hotel. 

Students in quarantine are allotted $35 per day on Zelle for delivery services such as UberEats and Doordash, in exchange for three meal swipes. 

Lori Friedman, director of media relations, said since the amount had been raised, the majority of students and families have been able to work within that amount.

Since food delivery services can be expensive and often have hidden costs such as delivery fees, tax, and services fees, some students and families had agreed that $25 was not enough to cover three meals a day.

Catherine Bigenho, ‘25, said the $25 was not enough to cover her meals.

“The worst part of quarantine was how expensive it was to purchase meals everyday,” Bigenho said. “I ordered the same thing for breakfast everyday which costs $11 at the establishment but $20 to get it delivered, which was my only option.”

She said she had to pay out of pocket and could only use the stipend for about one meal a day. 

Since quarantine lasts at least 10 days, the costs for meal delivery services continued to add up for those who chose to have food delivered.

“Within a day of communicating the $25 per day stipend, we changed it to $35 based on feedback we received and students and families have indicated their needs have been better met within that amount,” Baker said 

Bigenho said she started getting meals delivered from Lehigh while in isolation but did not think it was worth the exchanged meal swipes. A student can also opt out of the swipe for money offer and independently obtain their meals during their isolation.  

The meal delivery process has changed from what it was last year, with the addition of the Zelle option. Last year Lehigh dining delivered meals to students in isolation. 

“There were logistical issues around preparation and delivery of the volume of meals necessary. It was at that point we worked with the Treasurer’s Office to set up the Zelle reimbursement process—which does give students more say and options in what they are ordering and eating and when,” Baker said. 

Lehigh calls to check in on students who test positive and are quarantining on campus, Bigenho said.

Megan Brennan, ‘25, another student who tested positive, said quarantining was difficult since she felt like she was missing out on time in class and being with friends. 

“I was asymptomatic but quarantine was emotionally frustrating,” she said. 

Baker said feedback on the isolation housing experience varies.

She said the university has done their best to provide a clean, comfortable environment for those in isolation.

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