The Chronicle’s View: UCard purchases need to be re-examined

For a while now ASUU has been striving to expand the uses of the UCard. Specifically, ASUU would like students to use their card to make purchases off campus.

Every time a purchase is made with a credit or debit card, a corporation charges a fee. If students use the UCard to make purchases, the U gets that fee which has the potential of adding more than $1 million a year.

But it’s not working. A lot of effort has been made to get local businesses to allow the UCard to be used for payment. The number is constantly dwindling, however, not enlarging.

Businesses are losing interest because students are not making a special effort to patronize them with the UCard.

And why should they? This method of payment does allow a small student discount, but it’s not really enough to make the effort.

Bottom line: The program is failing. There are difficulties in putting a lot of money on the card. Credit and debit cards access our accounts automatically, but a special effort has to be made to put money on the UCard. Anything inconvenient has a small chance of success among college students.

Once money is on the card, it’s not as secure. Students use the UCard so frequently (to buy lunch, print papers, make copies) that it’s easy to lose track of. It’s easier to be careful with one’s credit cards than it is the UCard. And with other cards (safer and more convenient) and checks, why bother with another form of payment?

The incentive just isn’t enough to inspire a grassroots change in where students eat and how they pay for it. Severak the restaurants accepting the UCard are pizza joints. The discount is trivial.

For this to work there needs to be big student discounts. And all kinds of stores, such as gas stations and grocery stores, along with restaurants need to accept the card.

Sure, using the UCard sends money back to the U, but how much? If the program were really successful, it might knock $20 off the list of fees we pay. Not a big deal for a lot of effort.

Maybe if the money were easier to conceptualize and students saw it put to direct use, the program would be more successful. Even then, would it inspire students to rise above the apathy and do something inconvenient?

George Washington University requires students to put at least $1,500 on the card. If that happened here, there’d probably be a riot. We’re a commuter campus, and the opportunities to spend that money are fewer here.

The program needs to really be worth the effort or just completely dropped.