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Fostering the town-and-gown relationship

Campus card resides at heart of strong campus-community collaboration

Andrew Hudson   ||   Sep 12, 2016  ||   ,

Colleges and universities, no matter their size, are communities unto themselves. Each is a microcosm within which students develop both socially and academically.

But college communities represent just a portion of their larger, surrounding environments, and it’s vital that academic institutions be actively engaged beyond their campus borders.

The campus card is a key tool to facilitate this engagement. At first glance, the student ID forges connections within an institution’s walls, bringing together disparate agencies and providing valuable services to students and staff.

But its impact extends beyond the campus walls, enabling cardholders to engage with local businesses and merchants. It fosters interaction with the surrounding community in a mutually beneficial way – something commonly referred to as the town-and-gown relationship.

Building bridges

A strong tie between campus and community has far-reaching benefits, and many institutions work hard to fortify the relationship.

“Institutions want to be good neighbors in their communities, and in many areas around the country we hear of campus employees who are tasked specifically with strengthening the town-and-gown relationship,” says Sami Takieddine, director of operations for Commerce at CBORD. “Among the many tools available, the card program can be a fantastic means to very specifically support the local merchant base.”

Equally important to providing a valuable service to students, is the backing that a campus and its members can provide to the greater community. “When you can point to dollars spent out in the community with the college ID card, you can begin to quantify the support a university can give,” says Takieddine.

[pullquote]When you can point to dollars spent out in the community with the college ID card, you can begin to quantify the support a university can give.[/pullquote]

The relationship between a campus and its surrounding community is an important one for both community members and the future of the institution, says Fred Emery, director of OneCard sales at Heartland OneCard. “Students, faculty and staff often come from, and live in, the area surrounding a campus,” he says. “The relationship with the local community helps to support programs and events at the campus, whether cultural or athletic, and can also assist in increasing admissions.”

“The campus community often helps the local economy to flourish with students and staff supporting local businesses, and campuses often contribute to the overall job market in the surrounding communities as well,” adds Emery.

As for strengthening this relationship, he says campuses have a number of options at their disposal, such as:

  • payment and discount programs at local businesses
  • use of facilities for local events
  • membership offers for campus recreation and other facilities
  • camps and conferences participation
  • training of local youth by collegiate athletes
  • mentorship or tutoring programs in local K-12 schools
  • scholarships.

Enabling merchants in the community to accept the campus card as a preferred payment method is an important step in fostering the town-and-gown relationship, says CBORD’s Takieddine. “Even when it’s a more expensive alternative to debit or credit, accepting the campus card shows the importance of the student demographic to local businesses,” he adds. “Especially in smaller towns where the population is a majority campus-related, the spending power of campus cardholders directly impacts the community.”

Emory forges connections

Emory University is a major participant in its surrounding Atlanta community. “Our view is one that enhances the quality of life through health care, research, cultural awareness and support and service,” says Lisa Bona, associate director of Student Financial Services and director of EmoryCard Services.

“It is critical for EmoryCard to foster positive town/gown relationships in order to provide options to our cardholders and, in turn, increase traffic to local businesses,” says Bona.

Bona’s own affinity for the town-and-gown relationship has been a facet of both her personal and professional life for quite some time. “I am originally from a small town in South Carolina and worked at the university in that town for ten years,” she explains. “I have always believed that the relationships you create are vital to a successful, healthy way of life.”

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