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Appeal of potential UBill credit plan obvious

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | AUGUST 31, 2011 7:20 AM

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If you’re short on cash but set on university credit, buying that sexy shirt or purchasing those late-night “drunchies” could become much easier.

The University of Iowa Student Government and its leading officials, most notably President Elliot Higgins and Vice President Brittany Caplin, are supporting the incorporation of a revamped corollary to the university’s U-Bill program.

The inclusion, if fully integrated, will permit students at the UI to use their student IDs as credit cards, valid at a wide array of on- and off-campus venues. The aim is for a general broadening of the applications and flexibility of the U-Bill; students will ultimately be able to credit many of their charges and fees within the bounds of Iowa City to their student IDs. Students at the UI seem to be almost unanimously in support of the plan.

The DI Editorial Board similarly endorses the proposition but not without regulations.

Despite the deep-seated and market-evident financial bearing in which the issue finds itself rooted, the potential advantages of the new program, if incorporated, are many.

For one, the broadening of the applicability of the UI student ID cards would nearly eliminate the need for students to carry cash in their pockets, whether to class or on a Friday night. The reality of cash elimination on an immediate basis, while heavy with its own implications, does establish a common insurance: less money will be lost or stolen. The new plan will also lead to increased spending in local establishments.

“This whole system could really make everything a lot easier in terms of personal finance,” said UI senior Max Malec. “Sure, it creates a new mode for financial conflict, but the reality is undeniable. And if anything, it’ll be as much a tool for learning as an added luxury.”

The overwhelming appeal of the new plan, however, seems to be rooted in the attractive nature of a purely plastic system of personal finance. Of course, this could spell pocketbook disaster for many students, especially in an era wrought with debt and other financial irresponsibilities.

As a population of intellectuals, it would be insulting to assert that the 21st-century student does not possess the agency to make cautious and wary financial decisions on a day-to-day basis. Yet it would be naïve, of course, to assume that each and every UI student will be frugal-minded and financially sober and even more naïve yet to assume that every student is paying her or his own U-Bill to begin with.

The largest issue with the implementation of the new plan seems to be, undeniably, the potential for some unmanageable onslaught of credit charges, which, on a large scale, often ends in debt.  

This is a problem that can be solved by a few simple restrictions. A credit limit should be established each month (say, $250 to start), increasing by a set amount each following month, given the cardholder’s ability to pay and timeliness in doing so. Any student unable to pay her or his charges should be subject to some combination of the penalties currently established.

“I think the potential issues are pretty obvious,” said UI sophomore Jeffery Doe. “But this is something that we have to decide because it’s for us, and I think, as most of my friends do, that something like this is only going to make our lives easier.”

Instituting a successfully regulated local credit plan for the U-Bill program would not only give more autonomy to students, it will also make the community climate more open and profitable. The program, if implemented, would create a greater feeling of personal agency, allow for an expansion of downtown market-based diversity, and flood local business and commonplaces of the Iowa City community with an influx of activity and a communally beneficial system of financial reciprocity.

“Eliminating cash and being able to trust in one, localized source of payment is an awesome but also practical luxury,” said sophomore Brendon Lally. “After all, we’re adults, and while some of us are bound to screw up, I think the majority of us can handle the responsibility.”

All things considered, there is truth in these words. The students are here — most of them at least — because they want to learn, they want to be successful, and perhaps most of all, they want to be treated like adults.

Clearly, the new U-Bill plan is what the students want. Nonetheless, in consideration of such desires and detriments, it’s always appropriate to recall the proverbial odes of Spider-Man fame: with great power, comes great responsibility.


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