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UISG looking to expand U-Bill

BY KRISTEN EAST | AUGUST 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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One swipe of a student ID card will mean so much more in the next several months.

University of Iowa Student Government officials are advocating a new U-Bill program in which student ID cards would be accepted at more venues both on and off campus. Further, a long-term hope is that the current credit system will be switched to debit.

UISG President Elliot Higgins and Vice President Brittany Caplin will speak alongside a panel of various UI officials on Friday to discuss their ideas on expanding U-Bill use.

“[The idea] is huge,” Caplin said. “To make a decision like this for the entire university is overwhelming.”

This year, UISG hopes that U-Bill access will be made available for parking ramps, cabs and, despite “administrative hurdles,” Caplin noted, Kinnick Stadium and its concession stands. The cost of the project will depend on which venues are included. Money will be taken from UISG’s contingency funds to help pay for new credit-card swiping equipment.

But even if the credit program is expanded, the eventual switch to a debit program would still be on the table. If UI officials decided to go ahead with a new debit system, one major obstacle exists: a roughly three-year time period to buy and install new equipment that would process a new debit card.

“Our hands are tied,” Caplin said about the time required for any switch.

The switch would require input and support from various parties on campus, with the UI Hospitals and Clinics, athletics, and housing being the biggest hurdles, Caplin said.

After UISG sent its initial idea to the university, UI officials decided to take an extensive look at the entire program and whether a switch from a credit to debit system would benefit students.

“There’s obviously a mix of [billing] approaches across the nation,” UI spokesman Tom Moore said. “We’d obviously like to look at the best practices and see what approach might work well here. The goal is to enhance the convenience for students. That would be a very worthy goal.”

After Friday’s panel, leaders say they’ll turn to students for more input on the changes. Focus groups will be held on Sept. 23.

“Whatever the students want is what we’re pursuing,” Caplin said. “At the end of the day, we represent the students.”

Moore shared the same views as Caplin, wanting the panel to approach the U-Bill issue in a way that is best for all students.

“We want to make sure that we are approaching this in the right matter, exploring all the right options, discussing them, and making the right choices for students,” he said.


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