On-campus students basically live off Flex. The idea of “free” money to buy food on campus instead of actually having to spend cash is an extremely welcome thought to a lot of students.
The thing is, Flex is not actually free.
Someone has already paid for all the Flex on your student ID and you are simply spending pre-loaded money.
It is essentially a gift card for food at Murray State.
The biggest thing that bothers me is that when it comes to Flex, the student is always going to lose.
As much as Murray State is a public University, it still has to operate as a business that is going to try and generate a profit off of its food services.
Once you buy your Flex plan, Murray State already has your money tied up, so you are forced to spend money on food or whatever household items you can find at the Thoroughbred Room, Thoroughbrewed and Fast Track.
Murray State does this so all of the money you spend with Flex can only be funneled straight back into the University.
What are the advantages of purchasing a Flex plan?
According to Murray State’s website, you receive a 6 percent discount on every transaction with Flex.
Once you remember that Kentucky sales tax is also 6 percent, it evens back out to the sticker price that is advertised for the discounted product.
The convenience factor of Flex is extremely attractive for several people because you don’t have to carry around a wad of cash or worry about about making charges on a debit card.
Another benefit is that the conversion rate of Flex/cash is not 1:1. Depending on how much Flex you buy the ratios could be anywhere from 1.03:1 to 1.06:1.
This is a double-edged sword once you step back and look at the numbers and not the ratios.
If I pay $1,014 for a $1,075 flex plan, the additional flex seems kind of small for the amount of capital invested.
That means $1,014 of your money is already in the hands of Murray State, and you are on a race to spend it all before the end of the semester.
Of course, it doesn’t roll over and you want to get your money’s worth.
So, Flex is essentially a gift card with an expiration date.
None of this would really bother me a whole lot, but if you haven’t checked there are a very limited amount of places you can spend your Flex on Murray State’s campus. Most students aren’t able to spend their whole Flex plan in a semester because there is just a lack of outlets to spend it at.
What incentive does Murray State have to open new places that accept Flex when our money is already in their hands?
It is most profitable for Murray State when you don’t spend your Flex because that is money that does not have to factor in costs of goods sold.
It is your responsibility to find a way and spend all of your Flex, or you lose it – plain and simple.
Now, before we grab our pitchforks, this isn’t something we can necessarily blame Murray State for.
As flawed as the Flex system may seem, it is absolutely crucial to Murray State.
By having students purchase Flex, all of the money is able to be invested back into Murray State to give us students a better educational experience.
Flex is actually a genius plan, even if students may seem to come out on bottom. This is an amazing thing because Murray State is able to keep tuition lower in comparison to other Kentucky colleges, yet still be able to fund projects for the University through systems like the Flex and dedicated meal plans.
I think the University could work on making it more attractive to the students, especially those who live off campus.
I would say there need to be more outlets that accept Flex.
Murray has already taken note of this and purchased the Pony Express.
Also, offer more incentives for turning your cash into Flex.
Maybe they should better advertise the 6 percent discount. A lot of students don’t know about it. They could even offer better ratios to get more Flex money for every dollar you spend.
I, like most students, always think that systems can be tweaked and altered to benefit everybody better.
In this situation we need to keep Flex a profitable exchange for Dining Services, but also not to have students feeling like they are being taken advantage of for more University profit.
By hearing a member of the student body’s opinion on the situation, maybe Murray State could take some more proactive steps to alter this balance between profitable business and higher education.
Oh, and as always, go Racers!
Column by Zac Garrison, Junior from Franklin, Ky.