Yale ID cards may soon become the Swiss Army knife of Eli wallets, as the University has provisionally approved a program to allow Yalies to consolidate various campus payment accounts and make purchases with their ID cards at off-campus restaurants, Associate Vice President for Student Financial and Administrative Services Ernst Huff said Tuesday.
The exact details of the plan have not yet been worked out, Huff said, but the program would generally conform to a proposal that the Yale College Council submitted to him last fall. The plan would consolidate multiple payment systems — including printing accounts, laundry accounts, Eli bucks and FLEX points — into one account and allow students to use their ID cards to pay for meals at off-campus locations such as Au Bon Pain, Bulldog Burrito and Ivy Noodle.
Huff said his department has put the “Campus Cash” proposal on its list of funding priorities for next year. The program cannot go forward until it is approved by the provost and vice president for finance and administration during the University’s budgeting process for the next fiscal year, which will happen mid-spring, but Huff said he is optimistic that the proposal will be included in the final budget.
“I don’t think that there is any reason we wouldn’t be approved for that,” Huff said. “Based on prior experience with the process and our planning process, I would say it’s a go for next year.”
Student Financial and Administrative Services is now submitting to the provost a request for funding to cover any costs that might arise as a result of the proposal, Huff said. He said any costs would likely be associated with new hardware or programs required to coordinate payment systems, but he said he did not think that equipment would cost an “extraordinary” amount of money.
“The huge investment we made several years ago as far as the software that we use to control access to the dining halls supports this kind of system,” Huff said. “So we already own the majority of what we’ll need.”
The provost’s office has not yet received budget submissions from different departments and will not write a final budget until near the end of the academic year, Deputy Provost for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs Lloyd Suttle said. He said he does not know yet whether the University will be able to fund Campus Cash.
“There are a lot of critical budget decisions,” Suttle said. “We just have to wait until we see [all the budget requests] and prioritize.”
YCC Secretary Zach Marks ’09 said he welcomes the administration’s support for Campus Cash because he thinks the program will make life simpler for many students.
“I think this is a great triumph for the students,” he said. “We’re pleased the administration is responding to our calls for a service for which students have demonstrated their support.”
An online survey of 983 students that the YCC conducted in October suggested that 92.5 percent of students are in favor of expanding options for using student ID cards at off-campus locations and that 91.4 percent of students are in favor of consolidating the different forms of payment.
Huff said he has not yet approached any local businesses about joining the program but said that his department is developing a strategy for bringing restaurants on board, pending approval by the provost. The owners of several restaurants including Bulldog Burrito and Gourmet Heaven sent a letter to the YCC last fall expressing interest in joining a Campus Cash system.
YCC Treasurer Dave Roosth ’09 said he thinks Campus Cash should be modeled on similar programs at other schools, such as the Crimson Cash system at Harvard University, which has been able to attract numerous local businesses by charging a minimal transaction fee. Currently, the processing fee is 18 percent for those restaurants, such as Naples Pizza and Yorkside Pizza and Restaurant, that allow students to pay with their ID cards, and Roosth said he believes 18 percent is too high a fee.
“The hard thing now that it has been approved is going to be the implementation,” he said. “It is possible for businesses [at Harvard] to join because the transaction fee isn’t as large as the current 18 percent [Yale] charges now.”
The YCC will likely send a letter to the provost in the coming weeks laying out its reasons for proposing the Campus Cash program and asking him to include it in next year’s budget, Roosth said.