Flex excess adds up to over $120,000 for last academic year


The graphic compares the amount of flex dollars spent over versus the amount not spent over the past five years. Percentages represent flex not spent. UK Dining provided the data.

At the end of each semester, some UK students have large amounts of flex dollars left on their meal plans. And at the end of each school year, all of those unspent flex dollars disappear from their accounts. 

Flex dollars roll over from the fall semester to the spring semester, but at the end of the spring semester, unspent flex dollars expire. 

UK Dining uses that money for branding, events and to develop new dining concepts.

More than $122,000 flex dollars were left over at the end of the spring 2016 semester, the lowest amount left over in the past five years.

The highest amount unused was $206,796.45 flex dollars from the 2014-15 school year. UK Dining partnered with Aramark in July 2014 just before that school year, but the surplus had only increased $3,684.23.

The biggest increase in flex dollars not used, $68,369.64, was in spring 2013.

Over the past five years, an average of about $162,482.29 flex dollars are not spent, according to data from UK Dining. UK Dining Marketing spokeswoman Nicole Marcum wrote in an email to the Kentucky Kernel that Aramark created more dining options on campus.

During the 2015-16 school year UK students spent $5,484,797.28 in flex dollars, the highest amount in the past five years. The amount of flex dollars spent on campus increased after Aramark partnered with UK Dining.

Marcum wrote in an email to the Kernel there could be several reason why students have unused flex dollars.

“Each student is different in how they prefer to eat,” Marcum wrote. “Some are three-meals a day and others prefer multiple smaller meals. UK Dining offers students choices.” Marcum noted one example of a choice is Wildcat Deals at retail locations, such as Intermezzo and Ovid’s, during certain hours.

Flex dollars are typically spent at retail food locations, while meal swipes are used at dining halls like The 90 and Blazer Cafe.

Marcum wrote that Aramark opened the Dining Center to help students get the most out of their meal plans. Housed in The 90, the Dining Center monitors students’ usage of their meal plans. If students have an excessive amount of meal swipes or flex dollars, the center notifies student by email, Marcum wrote.

She said the center also provides guidance to best use meal plans, meal plan counseling and nutritional advice.

Marcum also wrote that with Alpha Phi Omega, UK Dining organizes “Flex for a Cause.” At the end of each semester, donation bins are placed in Wildcat Pantries and students can buy nonperishable items to donate.

UK Dining also sets up stations during freshmen orientations to discuss meal plans with incoming students, Marcum wrote. The marketing team helps students determine if they are on the right plan.

Currently, UK Dining offers eight meal plans for students and three faculty options. Marcum wrote UK Dining reviews meal plan options each year.

“We want students to have the option to choose meal plans based on their individual needs,” she said.