Options to pay by ID may increase

Yale College Council representatives will meet with administrators this Friday to discuss allowing students to make more purchases with their Yale ID cards on and off campus.

The YCC passed a resolution on Sunday night describing its goals for the payment program, which it hopes to set up by spring 2007. The new system aims to create a single account that consolidates existing payment options, including Flex Dollars and Eli Bucks, with laundry and printing charges. The YCC proposal also calls for an increase in the number of off-campus restaurants at which students can pay with their University accounts, and raises the possibility of using student ID cards to access campus vending machines.

Shoppers peruse the local grocery store Gourmet Heaven. An ID payment program that would expand purchase options to stores such as this one is in the works.
Amy Ly
Shoppers peruse the local grocery store Gourmet Heaven. An ID payment program that would expand purchase options to stores such as this one is in the works.

YCC representative David Roosth ’09, a co-author of the resolution, said YCC members will be meeting with Yale administrators to promote the resolution this week.

“All we can do is petition to them and hope the administration acts in a way that is in the benefit of the students,” he said.

The YCC will conduct a survey this weekend to solicit student input for its proposal.

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said the feasibility of the program is worth examining.

“I have no idea how it would work operationally, but it does sound worth exploring,” he said. “It sounds like it would be a convenience for students, and … it might encourage students to sample New Haven restaurants and other retailers as well as the usual campus fare, and that would be good for the city.”

YCC members said they have been looking at similar programs at other schools, especially Harvard University, to help shape the new program. The Crimson Cash program, which was founded in 1995, allows Harvard students to use ID cards at 27 on-campus dining locations, 22 off-campus eateries, 246 vending machines, copy and laundry machines, the university bookstore and Harvard libraries.

“Many schools have this program that really improves the quality of student life,” YCC Secretary Zach Marks ’09 said. “It’s just a matter of Yale getting with the times and realizing that this is something that students really want.”

YCC members said they hope the program will end the confusion surrounding the different payment services Yale offers, especially the Flex program, which has been criticized for its shortage of off-campus options. Flex points can currently be used at a few on-campus locations, including the Law School and School of Management dining halls, as well as Durfee’s, Yorkside Pizza, and Naples Pizza.

The Flex program has had a somewhat troubled history due to difficulties in getting local restaurants to join the program. Au Bon Pain declined to reenroll in the program in 2003, and other local restaurants have rejected the University’s invitation to join the program because of the high transaction fees that Yale charges each time a Flex purchase is made.

Some YCC members said they suspect that the transaction fee — which was set at 18 percent last year — discourages many eateries from joining the Flex program, so a new purchasing program would likely require lower fees to succeed.

“Clearly, 18 percent is a very, very prohibitive number for small businesses,” Marks said. “We would like to see something a little more reasonable.”

Roosth said Dining Services agreed to lower the transaction fee last year, but he does not know if the fee has been changed yet.

“The administration has already agreed to eight to ten percent,” he said. “We’re hoping for even lower so that more businesses would sign on and it wouldn’t be such a burden.”

Executive Director of Dining Services Don McQuarrie could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and local business managers refused to disclose the current Flex fee amount.

A number of students said they think the new program will be convenient if it succeeds.

“I think it would be great to unify all the cash services,” Kira Newman ’10 said. “It would lessen the headache.”

But Amanda Elbogen ’07 said she thinks the new program might not simplify payment options for students as much as YCC hopes it will.

“I think most Yale students have credit cards that they use when they go to Gourmet Heaven and Starbucks,” she said. “I don’t think that turning your Yale ID into a credit card makes things more simple for students, it just gives them another account to take care of.”

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