Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

U of W to allow meal-plan rollover

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The University of Winnipeg is relenting on its hardline stance on cash left on students' prepaid meal-plan cards at the end of the term.

The university is planning to implement rollovers that would allow cash left on student meal-plan cards to carry over from one semester to the next. Under current rules, funds that remain at the end of a term on the prepaid cards are forfeited.

"If requested by a student, dollars not spent at the end of the fall term would roll into winter term. If there is a balance at the end of winter term, it would go onto a gift card which would not expire," said Jeremy Read, senior executive officer and adviser to the university president.

"We're a university that is always looking to improve," he said. The proposed changes, which are not retroactive, are subject to approval by the Canada Revenue Agency. The changes came shortly after the Free Press published a story that revealed students' concerns about the meal-plan cards.

The university had said its rules about not rolling the money over were to comply with federal tax guidelines. But an online ruling by the CRA said unused money on student meal plans could be carried over or refunded without jeopardizing the tax exemption students receive.

Shortly after the story was published earlier this year, students started a petition demanding changes to the meal-plan program.

Laura Garinger, 20, was instrumental in that step. She is a member of F(un) Class, a students' social justice group that works to bring change on campus. Garinger brought the story to the group's attention. The third-year history student had used the meal-plan program in her first year of studies, and the story brought back memories of that time.

A petition asked for different levels of meal plans, rollovers for unused cash and for no fee to be charged to students who opt out of the plan for verified medical reasons. "Having to use $1,700 (for food) in a term is not really suitable for a lot of people," Garinger said.

The F(un) Class, along with the University of Winnipeg Students' Association, presented the petition to the university administration, and shortly after, Read said, the university submitted a proposal to the CRA that would allow rollovers and different levels of plans for students.

austin.grabish@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 15, 2014 B3

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