No more desperate measures for students stuck with leftover meal plan money

Ryerson students in the Pitman cafeteria, one of the locations where meal plan money can be used. (Nadine Habib / Ryersonian Staff)

Ryerson students in the Pitman cafeteria, one of the locations where meal plan money can be used. (Nadine Habib / Ryersonian Staff)Until this year, Ryerson meal plans were non-refundable, leaving students scrambling to make reckless purchases, treat five friends to dinner or give the waiter at the Ram in the Rye a 40 per cent tip to use up leftover money.

Until this year, Ryerson meal plans were non-refundable, leaving students scrambling to make reckless purchases, treat five friends to dinner or give the waiter at the Ram in the Rye a 40 per cent tip to use up leftover money.

But there’s relief in sight after The Ryersonian reported that students will finally have options this year for getting unused money back or getting credit toward another meal plan.

Residence students living in Pitman Hall or the International Living/Learning Centre (ILLC) must pay for a mandatory meal plan. Until this year, meal plans were not refundable, and leftovers couldn’t be rolled over into succeeding years.

Last week, Janice Winton, Ryerson’s vice-president of administration and finance, said that Ryerson will be rolling out some kind of refund for students at the end of the school year for any unused meal plan funds.
For students, refund options might also prevent reckless spending at the end of the year.

Braden Birrell, a second-year student who lived in residence last year, discovered he had $600 left on his OneCard meal plan with only five days to spend it at the end of the year — he had to find a way to spend the money fast. He resorted to stocking up on what any university student would: candy and chocolate.
Birrell bought “maybe three boxes of chocolate and four candy boxes,” he said, spending about $300.

Vesta Jimenez is a first-year interior design student who lives in Pitman Hall and purchased a mandatory meal plan this year. She said having options at the end of the year is a nice security blanket, especially considering other financial burdens.

“It’s nice knowing you can eat whatever you want,” she said. “And if you don’t finish it, then you can use the money for something else … like tuition.”

In the past, unused student meal-plan money, amounting to $25,000 to $30,000 each year, would go to Ryerson Eats. Joshna Maharaj, the assistant director and executive chef of Ryerson Eats, said that they have been receiving students’ leftover meal plan money even before she started revamping Ryerson’s food management system with the company Chartwells.

Maharaj said she’d prefer students used up their meal plan instead of the money going into a slush fund.
“I don’t think it’s a sustainable business plan to bank too heavily on surplus student meal plan dollars,” she said.
Although Ryerson Eats is going to feel a bit of a pinch without the leftover money, Maharaj said she’s confident her team will find creative ways to work around it. The plan includes avoiding over-scheduling staff and working more efficiently.

Caleigh Ritson, a first-year engineering student who lives in Pitman Hall, said it’s a relief to know she won’t have to think up any creative ways to spend all her meal plan money by the end of the year.
“Even if I have $50 in my account on the last day … I don’t have to spend it right away, because I don’t want it to go to waste.”

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