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Declining balance season: to Northwestern State students, this is the last few weeks of the spring semester where students with large amounts of declining balance left treat everyone they know, and don’t know, to lunch or coffee to get rid of their money.
Many students run their balance dry, but what about those who still have money in their account? Where does their money go?
NSU and Sodexo have a contract that is reviewed, changed if needed, then approved by the university and the UL System board every year. In this contract, it states Sodexo receives all the money students did not spend during the year.
NSU has a policy where students do not have to pay all tuition and fees up front; they can pay it in segments throughout the semester. Sodexo does internal billing that tracks how much declining balance is spent and then bills the university. Northwestern then uses money they receive from students to pay Sodexo every four to six weeks.
When students pay their bills, the last section to be paid for is the meal plan. If students fall short of their bill, Sodexo takes the hit because NSU cannot pay them.
Sodexo General Manager Steve Kauf explained it best: “Let’s say a student pays their meal plan as $1000, and they don’t pay that bill. We’ve already taken that as income because we go through the whole semester each week, break down a meal plan, and charge that to the university, then they pay us for what the student should’ve been paying.
“If by the end of the year he doesn’t pay, the university doesn’t pay us for the amount that he should’ve paid. We take a debit against our sales because we thought we were [going to] get that money. We billed the university for it, and we didn’t get paid for it, so we take it out of sales.”
Every 12-18 months, Sodexo checks to see if everything has been paid for. It is not strictly stated in the contract, but Sodexo uses leftover money, which is usually not a large sum according to Kauf, to cover what has not been paid.
When asked for a copy of the contract, Kauf said Sodexo does not want the contract published because it would give competitors an unfair advantage, and that this is an “industry-wide standard.”
“I can tell you, all contracts are approved by the UL System board,” he said. “I think we all on the University side and Sodexo side agree it is workable and fair.”