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Dining Plan Declining Balance — Demystified

To understand how Campus Dining’s declining balance works, you first need to know how the balance is split up. When freshmen come to Cal Poly during Week of Welcome, they’ll enjoy meals that are included with the program. After that, they are allocated a declining balance quarterly that allows them to spend money at any Campus Dining venue — all 22 of them.

Rolling Over Quarterly

A student’s declining balance money rolls over from quarter to quarter but not from year to year. For example, if a student doesn’t spend all of the declining balance during fall quarter, it will roll over to winter quarter for her to use. The rolling over of her declining balance continues until spring quarter. Any money remaining after spring quarter will not be available to use the following year. So it’s important to spend all of your declining balance by the end of the academic year.


Budgeting for food is one of many life skills a freshman acquires living on their own for the first time. To make it easier to keep track, a student’s remaining balance shows up on the register after each purchase. A student can also check her balance on the portal. Using some simple math, she can divide the amount of her declining balance by the number of days left in the quarter to see how much money she should be spending per day.

Stretching your balance

First year students have a special advantage over everyone else at Campus Dining’s only all-you-care-to-eat option on campus: freshmen only pay $5.50 out of their declining balance for breakfast, $6.00 for lunch and $6.50 for dinner (whereas the price for everyone else on campus is as much as $10.65.) Consider this: freshmen can enjoy an appetizer, entrée, dessert and a beverage for about the cost of a large frappé at their favorite coffee shop. In other words, this venue helps a student’s balance go further.

Running low or high

It’s not unusual for new students nearing the end of their first quarter to run low or high on their declining balance. If they are falling short, students can add more money for Campus Dining using Campus Express, which can be accessed via the Cal Poly portal “Money Matters” tab. Students with large balances can visit the Campus Dining website for ideas on how to get their declining balance on track.

Visit to see where your declining balance should be each quarter.