Big Red Cards gaining flexibility

Kelly Richardson

ome students might soon decide to clear out their wallets and hang on to their Big Red cards

A proposal to create new student identification cards that would serve as a debit card was presented earlier this month to the Student Government Association for approval.

Auxiliary Services Director Rob Chrisler said the proposal is also being reviewed in the president’s office.

Student Affairs has already approved the plan.

Application forms for the new cards are expected to be available by mid-September, Chrisler said.

Students must go online to activate the new cards after receiving them in the mail by October.

Higher One, a company based in Texas, is working with Western to design new student IDs which will feature many more services.

Though no contract has been signed, the debit card will be serviced through Master Card. This will allow the card to be used at any business that accepts Visa or MasterCard.

The new system will feature free checking, online banking and bill-paying, a rewards program and student payroll direct deposit. Free automatic teller machines will also be available on campus.

Dining services will still accept the student ID cards for food purchases using meal plan, Big Red Dollars and Dining Dollars.

The new card will come at no cost to students.

“I love it,” Chrisler said. “I’ve been looking at these programs for extending student services for five years, and I’ve never found one this good before that has so many services and no cost to students.”

Other campuses, such as the University of Houston; Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas; and Marshall University in Huntington, W. Va., have already instituted a program similar to Western’s proposed plan.

More than 90 percent of students use the services offered at those schools, Chrisler said.

George Rollins, director of the BearKat One Card Services at Sam Houston State, said students have warmed up to the program.

“Our students, particularly the new incoming students, really seem to like it,” he said.

The program at Sam Houston State began last August. The university had a few problems in the beginning, but everything is running smoothly now, Rollins said.

Jackie Mitchell, editor of the Cougar1Card Program at Houston, said publicizing the card is important.

“Getting the word out and marketing to your students is key,” Mitchell said.

Some Western students are already growing fond of the proposed card service.

Chrisler presented the proposal to SGA on Aug. 21. Most SGA members approved the plan, Bulan senior Jessica Martin said.

“It’s near flawless,” said Martin, an SGA member. “It’s bold to say, but it’s a very well thought out plan.”

But one concern of some SGA members is that the new IDs will be stolen when students check into other dorms and leave them at the front desk, Martin said.

Still, Martin believes the new banking system is a good idea.

“It’s convenient, it’s easy to do, it’s easy to switch over,” she said.

Reach Kelly Richardson at [email protected]