Most college students hope to see improvements at their school accomplished within their four years, but student government representatives have even shorter time frames to get things done. The short terms for student representatives at Yale is one reason little has so far come of the proposed Bulldog Bucks and Campus Cash programs.
The principal roadblock came last spring when Yale’s Office of the General Counsel decided the timing was not appropriate to start a new student accounting system, because the Connecticut Attorney General had been investigating various Connecticut universities for fraudulent deals involving credit card companies, student debt and similar payment setups.
Thus the best efforts of Danny Seifert ’09 and Rebecca Taber ’08 essentially came to naught. There is still a need, obviously: Yale is behind the times on having an integrated campus payment system.
As of last spring, contracts were signed as C-BORD, Inc., manufacturers of the dining halls’ Odyssey swipe system, planned to go ahead and set up an integrated declining debit balance charge system. The Office of Student Financial Services also hoped to eliminate the credit-based bursar system to avoid the rare conflicts when students were unable to pay up.
According to Victor Stein, Executive Director of Student Financial and Administrative Services , the project has been put on hold indefinitely, as the financial and IT resources of SFAS for new projects are already strained by demands coming from faculty and other components of the University.
The status quo is outdated. Campuses across the nation have had integrated payment systems since the mid-1990s. Some campuses even have vending machines wired to accept student IDs for payment.
An ideal system would allow students or their parents to make a deposit at the start of an academic year so student could make withdrawals to pay for laundry, printing, on-campus student organization donations and purchases, food at on-campus locations and items at off-campus locations. This last element is more difficult because it requires contracts to be signed between the university, CBORD’s subsidiary and vendors. This component is also ripe for conflict of interest and fraud.
Still, while the Attorney General’s office may have a long memory, there is little room for fraud if there is no credit-based system incorporated into the setup. The off-campus arrangements can be postponed.
Even for the added reasons of personal safety on New Haven streets and clear accountability between students and their parents, the Campus Cash program is a must. The program won’t just help students: The University will benefit, too, as it reduce the number of redundant accounting systems and software licenses.
Taking a brief look at the competition, Harvard’s Crimson Cash is a declining balance account that allows any undergrad or parent to add value online or monitor accounts. It allows payment at 25 off-campus locations, including copiers, laundry, over 100 vending machines and video rentals from libraries.
At UPenn, Penn Cash, another declining balance account, allows the same online monitoring and refilling and can be used for 15 off-campus locations for printing and copying. The PennCard Center shares Penn’s status as a not-for-profit organization, and proceeds earned from sales and supplier partnerships support the costs associated with maintaining the operation of the enterprise.
The Brown Card allows access to meal plans, Flex-Plus off-campus dining options, and a declining-balance account for purchases at dining halls, the Brown Bookstore, the registrar’s office and the Hour Glass Cafe. Brown Card also allows access to campus vending, laundry machines, snack machines, beverage machines, and self-serve copier and printers at Brown’s libraries and copy centers.
The Dartmouth Card allows payment for dining hall food, off-campus vendors, printing, copying, laundry, athletic events, and even fraternity and sorority dues.
Columbia’s ID incorporates dining, printing and copying, as well as a Flex account that can be used at a number of off-campus locations.
Yale is far behind the other Ivies with regard to a simple, campuswide means of payment. The effort for a similar simple payment system is an initiative that past surveys have shown students overwhelmingly support, but we need to demonstrate our continued support for an integrated payment system so that the administration does not push this initiative further from public attention.
Barrett Williams is a junior in Trumbull College.