Flex Dollars are the highlight of most students’ meal plans. The designated money gives them the ability to eat a lunch at Cosi or grab a sandwich from Vital Vittles to break up the daily Leo’s grind. But many students see the well run dry long before their cravings for non-dining-hall fare subside. The limited number of Flex Dollars available for purchase, along with the rigid connection to meal plans, needs improvement.

A few easy reforms could be made to improve the meal plan purchasing options. As it is now, Flex Dollar amounts are determined by the size of the meal plan. If a student wants more flexibility in eating options, they need to buy more meals per week at Leo’s, a counterintuitive concept. Since Flex Dollars are billed separately to students’ accounts, picking a number of meals and a number of flex dollars could easily be detached.

Other colleges around the country offer Flex-only meal plans along with the regular meal-plan offerings for those students who want to avoid the dining hall experience entirely.

At first, it may seem unnecessary to allow students large Flex Dollars accounts with the alternative of Debit Dollars. The major difference is that Flex Dollars can only be used to purchase food. So, some parents would be more willing to reduce a student’s Leo’s dining plan if they felt they could still make sure their son or daughter had enough funds to dedicate to meals.

For students, there are additional advantages beyond simply the increased options for Tuesday night dinner. Students don’t pay tax on their Flex Dollar purchases, so each dollar a student has in their account will go further.

Ultimately, our Flex Dollar suggestion comes down to giving students and parents more options for campus dining plans. Most freshman and sophomores in dorms complain about how tiring Leo’s gets, even if they have a 10-meal-a-week plan, the lowest setup for a weekly arrangement. Allowing students to purchase a greater number of Flex Dollars would give students more choice when it comes to eating on campus.

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