Flex dollars not as flexible

Katie Hill

Katie HillReporter

The SDSU administration is implementing a $50 Flex spending limit per semester at both the SDSU Dairy Bar and Meat Lab.

The policy restricts students from using over $50 of their meal plan Flex dollars at each location throughout the duration of one semester. SDSU received concerns from Aramark, the university’s food provider, about when students spend their Flex dollars.

Doug Wermedal, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, said there are a couple different reasons for the policy.

“The first [reason] is educational, and it is the desire to see students connect with each other in socially reinforcing ways,” Wermedal said. “This is often done over a meal at one of our many sites or over a cup of Java City coffee … it’s certainly not the whole picture, but it is a well-researched contributing factor and is most intensely important on the front end of each semester.”

Aramark’s profits come from the student meal plan dollars, and Wermedal said the Meat Lab and the Dairy Bar receiving revenues from the same funds is not cost-effective.

“When a third-party entity accesses those revenues, the funds available to covers these fundamental costs of operation are reduced, and it becomes a business model that is not sustainable,” Wermedal said. “Simply put, it is sort of like Burger King having the freedom to print coupons for food discounts that McDonald’s would be forced to honor.”

Aramark representatives were unable to comment.

Adam Rhody, ag research and Meat Lab manager, said they knew about the policy last May during finals week.

“The disadvantages are kind of obvious,” Rhody said. “It doesn’t seem like we are using all of our resources.”

Rhody said that since people have heard about the new limitations they “have had several complaints.”

Although it might be inconvenient to some students, there are other payment options.

“Students may spend whatever they want at either location using credit card, cash or check at any time during the semester,” Wermedal said.

The policy does provide some leeway for the students.

“We are always ready to listen and respond to students who have unique circumstances and need wider access than policy limits indicate,” Wermedal said.

A history of the past purchases at the Dairy Bar and the Meat Lab were used to set the maximum dollar amount for the policy.

“Data was reviewed from last year’s usage,” Wermedal said. “According to this data the $50 figure provides adequate revenue streams to support Dairy Bar and Meat Lab operations in similar fashion to the previous year’s usage by students.”

For some students, the new policy will require a change in spending habits.

“Last year, I was able to spend the extra money off my meal plan at the Meat Lab and it was great,” said Jenn Lindner, sophomore economics and ag business major. “Not being able to spend over $50 there this year means I will have to find alternative routes to reasonably use up my meal plan here on campus, which is hard to do.”

Both the Dairy Bar and the Meat Lab have expressed concerns regarding the guidelines.

“It’s unfortunate I guess, but we will continue to do what they want and follow the rules,” Rhody said.

Excess spending toward the end of each semester from students has definitely had an impact.

“The trend was in a direction that was not sustainable, [this created] the desire to craft a compromise solution,” Wermedal said.