"Students learn the system in the fall. By the time spring rolls around, most of the time the students know the system and budget their money a little better," Grove said.
Leftover money from the fall semester can roll over into the spring one, but money from spring meal plans cannot rollover to the summer. While students appreciate the opportunity to use leftovers from the summer and fall, the rollover system can create considerable pressure for students to renew meal plans.
Veronica Anapur, a senior biology major, was one such student.
“When I moved off campus in the fall I didn't have any intention of renewing my meal plan, but I had so much money left over from the summer I felt like I had to," she said. "I felt like I needed to spend thousands of dollars just to not lose $100.”
Pressure to not waste money from the summer led her to buy a meal plan in the fall, which in turn pressured her into buying another meal plan in the spring to avoid wasting even more money.
The cycle is daunting for students, who just want to make sure they aren't losing money.
In order to curb the monetary waste, Dining Services offers an outlet for student spending at the end of year by selling cakes, soda and candy in bulk.
“We do that based upon feedback from students so they have the opportunity to buy things that are popular that they want to spend their money on,” Grove said.
Grove went on to say that Dining Services is a business and that once a student has signed the contract for a meal plan the money they pay is invested in Dining Services and can't be handed back. However, dining services tries to offer ways for students to spend their leftover money and still feel as though they're getting money's worth.
If sweets and junk food aren't particularly appetizing, there's another option for students with a surplus: Flex Out Hunger, a program between dining services and the Virginia Tech chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, takes unused Flex Dollars and gives it back to the community.
Students can donate their unused dining dollars to the program, which uses the proceeds to the benefit the Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program.
This year, with about 570 donations, the program raised a record-breaking $18,000 for the community.