Editorials

Editorial: GET — Bear Bucks online

By
Monday, March 2, 2015

Bear Bucks machines are centrally located and well-spaced throughout campus, with stations at the Sciences Library, J. Walter Wilson, the Sharpe Refectory, the Verney-Woolley Dining Hall, the Rockefeller Library and the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center. But for students who live off campus or need PawPrints in a pinch, some of these options limit their freedom of behavior, waste time and actually deny Brown a small but potentially significant source of revenue.

Bear Bucks could easily be an online platform, if the University were to update its payment software with the CBORD Group Inc., the company managing the Bear Bucks GET portals. The added revenue could supplement dining costs, and it could even lead to Brown monetizing more interesting aspects of student life, such as events held by student groups.

Bear Bucks provide an excellent internal currency for the University. It is money on the student ID card that Brown students can use and get reimbursed for at the end of each academic year. The student ID is like a debit card for Brown.

The Bear Bucks system should be, like most bank accounts that students have, paperless. Students in a bind may prefer to use their credit cards to update Bear Bucks on the go, and GET already has a smartphone app that allows for this at most schools. But the University’s payment system does not have this feature, as it offers  no option to use a credit card for a digital deposit. Brown could easily adopt this feature, as it already is part of GET’s digital system.

So who stands to win from this change? Surprisingly, it’s Brown. As the University progressively raises tuition and deficit problems loom, small gains stand out. Motivating students to expend revenue on campus benefits Brown tremendously.

Making Bear Bucks more convenient would guide more students to use their available Bear Bucks to buy Blue Room sandwiches, even if they are not on meal plan. It would motivate students to print via Brown’s system, instead of waiting it out with their own printers or those of friends. It could also get people to shop more at the Brown Bookstore. For parents, Bear Bucks provides a way to give their children money that can be spent only at Brown — which is particularly helpful for textbook shopping — and protects their children from having to carry wallets or cash, which is a liability if mugged. In the future, it is even possible that potential assailants will not target college students knowing they carry only student ID cards.

It could be a fascinating innovation to make payments to student groups via the Bear Bucks system, to track purchases and budgets. Imagine if we could pay for student group events, such as a capella concerts, with Bear Bucks. Groups could borrow card scanners and easily ask for donations or charge for attendance. Some groups might chafe at the idea, but if cashing out with Bear Bucks were possible, the events could get more patronage from students who might not have cash on them.

The change would make the University instrumental in providing money to its student groups and becoming more involved in their processing. Monitoring how student groups raise money would provide data on where and when the most successful fundraisers are, helping the many charitable or self-financed groups on campus.

Facilitating spending on campus, monitoring cash flow and sharing that data with students presents an opportunity to increase University revenues, keeping money in Brown’s hands as it faces a deficit. The first step could be as simple as allowing online deposits.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16 and Baxter DiFabrizio ’15. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.