As the end of last spring semester approached, sophomore Tonita Johnson, 19, had around $600 of leftover J-points on her meal plan. During the last weeks of the semester, Johnson was trying to spend her remaining points by paying for her friends who had used up all of their J-points.
“I paid for other people who ran out of J-points,” Johnson said, “I had to get rid of $600, I got it down to $92.”
Last year alone, $82,513 worth of unused J-points expired. HSU meal plan J-points expire at the end of every spring semester. Every year a number of students lose their leftover points. These already expensive points are nonrefundable and can’t rollover to the summer semester or the following school year.
Like many other students, Johnson took out a loan to pay for the gold plan she had last year. Students pay $1.96 for every $1 they get on the gold plan. The plan costs $5,544 while students only get $2,832 worth of J-points. $1,416 for each semester. This hidden,
prepaid cost is known as a fixed cost.
Johnson lost $92 of J-points, but adding the fixed cost fees she paid for when purchasing the plan brings her total loss to $180.
“That money would have gone towards my books and other stuff that I needed for this semester,” Johnson said.
Besides buying things for friends, before heading home to Los Angeles, Johnson spent some of her J-points buying things from the on-campus markets and left them at a friend’s house in Arcata that caught on fire this summer.
“My friend house caught on fire, a lot of those things that I’ve bought from all around got destroyed in the fire,” Johnson said. “Everything is gone. They lost a lot of stuff, I lost some of my stuff.”
HSU does not refund students any part of their remaining meal plan balance.
“They [HSU] should refund the points. I feel they have the ability to refund the points,” Joey Mularky, president of Associated Students, said.
Sahil Barot, a 19-year-old international student from India, said it’s a waste of money.
At the end of last spring semester, he had over $280 leftover points on his meal plan. He spent some of his remaining points on things from the on-campus markets, but still lost around $70 worth of J-points that expired.
“It was sad. It’s a lot, it’s a big amount,” Barot said. “With that money, I could buy my stuff for a month. My food, groceries, milk or cereal or vegetables and fruits I could buy it for a month.”
Barot’s family owns a farm in India where they grow cotton, potatoes and tobacco. His father helped him pay for the meal plan with their farm income savings. His father also took a loan to pay for his education.
“My father saved some money for me,” Barot said. “My father took a loan from a bank and got money from the farm.”
In a school where over 50 percent of student come from low-income families, there are no plans to consider refunding student for their unused meal plans money. This brings up the question, what does student who needs that money do?
“The answer to the question ‘What do student who need that money do?’ I don’t have a good answer for that,” said Ron Rudebock, the director of Dining Services. “Life is not fair sometimes.”
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