It's hard not to notice the short period of campus-wide stress and frustration ushered in by the close of the spring semester. If final exams and end of the year projects aren't already enough, students have another concern on their minds—draining their meal plans before the clock runs out.
“It's really annoying,” said Chris Strong, a senior psychology major who ended the semester with $60 left unused on his meal plan. “I feel like if you pay money to use it, it's yours. It shouldn't run out at the end of the semester.”
While his opinion seems to be a popular one around campus, the system doesn't allow it, leaving many students wondering what happens to the leftover money.
"It goes back into benefiting you all," said Brian Grove, the associate director of dining services. “Back into paying the bills … into the dining facilities.”
Grove explained that when students buy a meal plan, they're actually doing more than just putting some money on their account.
“It's investing in infrastructure," he said. "It's meant to be used by students for food in the facility. It's not meant to be leftover money."
According to the dining services website, all Flex Plans have a base cost of $894, and then a varying amount of Flex Dollars depending on the plan. The base cost goes into paying bills and maintaining the dining facilities. Flex Plans give students a 50 percent discount in the a la carte dining halls such as Owens and West End Market, and at least a 67 percent discount in all-you-care-to-eat dining centers such as D2.
According to Grove, the most popular plan is the Mega Flex Plan, the middle tier in the Major Flex option. Off-campus students also have the option to buy a smaller Minor Flex Plan, or to buy dining dollars, which don't have an expiration date.
Meal plans, on the other hand, should be seen as an investment.
"When you sign up for a meal plan, it's your money. We'd like to see everyone spend their money. We don't want there to be any leftovers in the account," Grove said.
Whatever is leftover at the end of the spring semester goes back into to the system. Still, many students feel unsatisfied with this outcome, especially graduating seniors who won't see the new dining halls or renovations to current ones. Groves says those graduating students can see it as a legacy for future students.
For the two summer sessions and fall semester, there's still hope for students to use any money remaining on their meal plans, as flex dollars can rollover until spring.