Frequently, campus administrators struggle with the decision to add a banking partner or other off-campus functionality to their campus card. How will it affect spending on campus? Will it cost me more or will it generate revenue? What will happen to our card’s stored value accounts?
According to several colleges that have chosen to add banking and other off-campus functionality to their campus ID cards, the advantages for off-campus card use far exceed the disadvantages. In the end, these colleges agree that students love the extra choices available to them and that pays off in the long run.
“One of the questions we get asked frequently is: ‘Will adding a banking partnership reduce the dollars being spent in the campus stored value accounts?’” said Whitney Bright, vice president and general manager for Campus Banking with U.S. Bank. “Experience has shown that by adding a banking partner, students see their card as more of a financial tool. Most of our campuses haven’t seen a decrease in on-campus spending. In fact, it can have an opposite effect, because students end up using the card more often for all kinds of functions.”
“If they really analyze it, they’ll find that a banking partnership is a greater value to students and a greater financial value to the campus. But they must have an effective communications plan so students understand the difference between their on-campus account and their bank account … and where they can use those different accounts,” she said.
Sean Glass with Higher One agrees. His company, a provider of refund management and banking services for colleges and universities, has found that “with our ID card clients, the banking and refund management program helps to increase the amount of on-campus spending through our Campus Autoload feature.”
The program “lets students choose to have money automatically transferred from their OneAccount checking account whenever their on-campus flex account drops below a certain level,” says Mr. Glass. “One of our earliest clients, University of Wisconsin-Stout, (found) that adding our service improved the economics of their previous flex account system.”
Blackboard study quantifies this ‘growth for all’ phenomenom
What has been the impact on on-campus spending levels via the card following the launch of Blackboard’s BbOne off-campus program at client institutions? CR80News posed this question to Pedro Marzo, Director, of BbOne.
“This is the number one question we get asked by prospect clients so two years ago we decided to conduct a study among our clients to find out conclusively. We found out that on-campus spending increased on average 25% over three years,” said Mr. Marzo.
“For every dollar that is deposited into the flex account, about 2/3 gets spent on-campus, and only 1/3 goes to off-campus merchants,” he continues. “In other words, the size of the pie gets bigger, and often on-campus locations keep the biggest slice.”
The study showed that deposit levels increased as well … “on average 85% over three years,” according to Mr. Marzo. “The increase was significantly higher at institutions with brand new deployments and closer to 20% at schools with mature card programs.”
Creighton University sees overall growth through the banking addition
Omaha, Neb.-based Creighton’s banking relationship with U.S. Bank “is a win/win/win for all. We get help providing goods and services to our patrons without having to capitalize from a shrinking budget,” said Brenda Hovden, Creighton’s director of card services. “We’re not any different from any private institution. We come back with all these ideas, but our budgets just don’t have the ability to keep up. U.S. Bank gives us marketing opportunities and support. From our experience there are definitely benefits to having both a banking relationship and an off-campus program.”
She added: “Our community members are in need of financial transaction services beyond our campus fringe and that’s what the bank is looking to provide. The student or employee, the university, and the financial institution are looking for a long-term relationship that continues to be mutually beneficial. With U.S. Bank as our partner, Creighton University community members have access to personal financial coaches and local services.”
Creighton’s off-campus program “creates for merchants’ opportunities to reach our campus population,” she said. “One benefit is it offers our patrons the flexibility to choose from multiple payment methods. It’s this same flexibility that boosts our participation levels in both the number and balances carried in our JayBuck$ (declining balance) program.”
Does the banking functionality take away from the off campus merchant program? “Definitely not,” said Ms. Hovden. “While they both offer a mechanism to make off-campus transactions and the ability to monitor and budget student spending they also have different features and functionalities that we feel complement one another. With U.S. Bank’s Student or Workplace Banking our community members also have access to an array of services whose borders stretch beyond our campus fringe or functionality. We’re simply extending to our community members an opportunity to access those services using our ID Card.”
The 7,000 student-strong Creighton, with another 2,500 faculty and staff, uses BB One from Blackboard and currently has about six outside vendors, she said.
The student card can double as an ATM and PIN-based debit card. “It doesn’t have a Visa logo and you cannot perform signature-based transactions, in other words, no credit capabilities. So if the card is lost, it becomes ineffective immediately unless that person has your PIN number,” added Ms. Hovden.
Wisconsin campus finds similar growth with off-campus declining balance program
Having an off-campus program at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has been a blessing since the school’s student union is undergoing construction. “Students still have increased opportunities for their dining and other needs,” said Jerome B. Lineberger, associate director University Centers. “Actually, they currently complement each other very effectively.”
He added: “There are cost and service level benefits to each program. In the long term, as payment media technologies merge and become more transparent to the user, it may become less of an issue.”
The university started its off campus program about five years ago, through Student Advantage. “When they were purchased by Blackboard, it was rolled into a Blackboard off-campus program,” said Mr. Lineberger.
He said when the university first implemented its off-campus program, the concern was “that we might cannibalize our on-campus sales. The college uses what it calls “PointCash,” a cash equivalency not tied to any meal plan. The college’s foodservice operator was concerned that all this PointCash money would go to the off campus merchants. “But our deposits went up, not down,” he said.
The university currently has about 15 off-campus merchants to service its 8,200 students. Merchants include food, laundry and dry cleaners.
The concerns are out there and campus card administrators will almost certainly face the questions when a new payment option is added to a card program. Will an off-campus program impact on-campus spending? Will a banking partnership impact on-campus and/or off-campus declining balance spending? Are we cannibalizing our revenues? The campuses and vendors interviewed for this article seem to agree that more options make for better usage, and better usage means more spending across locations and payment vehicles.
Perhaps Mr. Glass sums it up best when he stresses that you are not replacing the on-campus program when you add a banking partner. “When the school didn’t have banking on the campus card, students still had bank accounts … so adding banking won’t change how they access their money, it just makes it more convenient that they can do it all through one card.”
Mr. Marzo sums it up from the BbOne perspective, “perhaps the best evidence in favor of off-campus programs is that in all the years we’ve been managing (them) we’ve never seen a client re-evaluate their decision to go off-campus.”