For the past three years, the University of Minnesota Dining Services has profited from students’ unused FlexDine.
Although some students expressed concerns about the policy, University administration said the roughly $20,000 it receives annually from accounts inactive for a year is put to good use. It also pointed out that students are notified twice before their accounts expire.
Meal plans — which are required of students living in the residence halls — purchased through University Dining Services require students to put at least $50 onto a FlexDine account each semester. Students and staff can use the funds to purchase food at campus restaurants with their U-cards.
Starting in 2008, the funds in FlexDine accounts that have been inactive for a year revert back to the University. Previously, they were
collected at the end of each academic year by Aramark, the company the University contracts to run UDS, said Leslie Bowman, executive director of contract administration.
Now, the University still uses Aramark, but the profits from FlexDine leftovers go directly to UDS.
Both accounting freshman Holly Mahoney and chemistry freshman John Michniak said they weren’t fans of the policy.
“It’s still our money,” Mahoney said. “I don’t think it’s really fair to students because they are paying for it.”
She said if UDS administration waited until a student graduated before claiming an account, she might approve of the procedure.
Michniak said although he didn’t like the policy, he wasn’t overly concerned because he was confident he would use his FlexDine at least once in 12 months.
Expired FlexDine dollars are processed monthly and flow into the contract administration budget, Bowman said. They’re then distributed based on criteria like the needs of the department.
This year, Bowman said, the money was put toward automating the process of changing a meal plan, which students can do during the first two weeks of the semester. Previously, she said, the process was manual and time-consuming.
“It’s a pretty reasonable way to use [the money],” Michniak said.
In spring of 2008, Bowman said there were 7,985 FlexDine patrons. As of Sunday, she said, there were 16,710 patrons.
She said the increase is likely due to students that graduated last year whose accounts haven’t expired yet. She also said students appreciate the guidelines of the new contract.
“I think that our students are more satisfied that [FlexDine] doesn’t expire at the end of an academic year,” she said.
FlexDine allows parents to be sure that if they’re funding their student’s meal plan, the money is going toward food and drink, Bowman said.
FlexDine is also meant to “provide students with variety in their meal plan choices,” said Karen Devet, director of UDS.
Another advantage of FlexDine, Devet said, is that it allows students to purchase meals from campus restaurants without carrying cash.
Although Michniak said it’s convenient not to deal with change, he said the prices at University restaurants are generally higher than they would be off campus.
He added that FlexDine is different than cash.
“You have to use it towards University Dining Services,” he said.