Nothing gold can stay – not even your Dining Dollars.
At the end of this semester, the leftover Dining Dollars of every UT student will expire and disappear, in keeping with a policy instituted in 1997.
According to this policy, Dining Dollars may "roll over" from the fall into the spring semester. However, they are not transferable after the spring semester concludes, regardless of the student's enrollment the following academic year.
Mary Leslie Patterson, marketing director for Dining Services, said 1-2 percent of all Dining Dollars allocated to students remain unused at the end of the year. These unused assets are then reallocated to a fund "within UT Dining and the University" designated for infrastructure. No fiscal figures were provided regarding this fund.
Sam Ruwe, freshman in psychology, still has $96 in his account.
"I think I will be finding myself spending a ton of my leftover money on gum down at the POD market or on Papa Johns," he said. "I don't want to have anything left over."
According to UT Dining, there are noticeable spikes in Dining Dollar usage before major breaks and in the weeks leading up to the end of the spring semester.
Ben Staggs, a freshman in chemical engineering, has a "7 Day Plus" meal plan, which comes complete with 300 Dining Dollars. While Staggs has already spent this allotted amount, he said the university's policy negates his desire to add more Dining Dollars to his account.
"I figure it's more worth it to just use my meal plan and pay with straight up cash for whatever it doesn't cover," Staggs said. "After all, it's just going to go away if I have anything leftover."
At the time of his meal plan contract, Staggs said he was made aware of this term – but not by the university. Instead, he learned of the policy through his sister, a UT alumna.
"I don't think I would have known otherwise," he said.
However, Patterson said her office strives to promote awareness of their financial policies.
"We typically try to run promotions at the end of the semester to make sure that people know about leftover funds," she said, "and we try to tell students and their parents at orientation."
According to UT Dining's website, all existing meal plans are available on a per-semester basis and include both "meals" and an allowance of Dining Dollars. Exceptions are made only for commuters and campus apartment residents, who may also access plans including only a Dining Dollar allotment. Dining Dollars cannot be moved or erased from these plans; they can only be added by students or approved users, like their parents.
In Patterson's opinion, Dining Dollars provide greater flexibility for students that do not have time to eat in a traditional dining hall. Patterson also said that UT Dining "re-evaluates" student's eating habits and needs on a regular basis, adjusting and coordinating their services accordingly.
"We are always open for suggestions and ideas from this campus," Patterson said.
Still, Staggs said all money should ultimately return to the hands of the students.
"I think we should be in control of what we do with the Dining Dollars that we ultimately are already paying for."