Although many students jump at the chance to dine anywhere but O’Donovan Hall, being required to purchase $50 to $100 worth of Flex Dollars as part of a meal plan is not a tasteful solution. Georgetown’s Flex Dollars program should be discontinued, and the savings should go toward reducing the exorbitant cost of a meal plan.

The standard 14-meal-per-week plan costs $2,083 for a semester and includes $75 in Flex Dollars, which are provided as a debit allowance on students’ GOCards. All per-week plans come with Flex Dollars, as do the 135 and 180 meal semester block plans.

Flex Dollars can be spent at 17 on-campus dining venues, including private vendors like Starbucks and Students of Georgetown, Inc. Even with this variety, Flex Dollars inherently represent a restriction on students’ choices. For example, while a student can spend flex dollars at Einstein Bros. Bagels in Car Barn, he can’t walk across the street and use them at Wisey’s. What good does this do aside from putting more money in the pockets of Aramark, the company that manages Georgetown dining services and the food merchants with whom it has partnerships?
One apparent advantage of the Flex Dollars program is that it allows students to buy food without the normal 10 percent sales tax. This discount is noteworthy, but many students on meal plans would likely be willing to give it up in order to have free discretion over how and where they spend their money.

Students and their parents can already add funds to the general debit component of their GOCards, which can be spent at the same locations as Flex Dollars. If Flex Dollars are considered to be a way for parents to provide money that their children will only be able to spend on nutrition, parents should be presented with that feature as a choice, not a requirement.

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