By Charles Ratliff
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Area merchants will be given an opportunity to meet with administrators next week to discuss the possibility of being allowed access to UA's All Aboard/Pocket Money card program.
The University of Arizona Office of Economic Development approached The Campus Merchants Association to set up the meeting between merchants and Bruce Wright, office director, in order to discuss the options of allowing that access.
And, the merchants say they will present their evidence Ä namely petitions gathered over the last six weeks, which indicate students' support of allowing All Aboard access to off-campus businesses.
"Every kid I've asked to sign the petition has signed," said Mort Edberg, owner of Landmark Clothing and Shoes, 876 East University Blvd.
Edberg said the merchants will bring the petitions, which contain roughly 2,000 signatures, to the meeting next week to show Wright and his staff that students want to use their cards off campus.
Gale Elliott, manager of Arizona Bookstore, 815 N. Park Ave, said he feels the meeting is a positive result of the merchant's efforts and that an answer will soon be at hand for them.
"Whether it will be 'yea' or 'nay,' at least we'll have an answer," Elliott said.
Elliott said his company has found itself in situations similar to what his store is experiencing with the UA. He cited the program at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor as a positive example of merchants working with a university for the benefit of students.
This spring, Michigan began a pilot program involving their "MCard" by allowing local businesses access.
Florida State University at Tallahassee has also
seen success with their FSU card, said Marcy Murphy, assistant director of FSU's Card Application Technology Center.
Three years ago FSU opened access to Tallahassee merchants and currently the students benefit from a growing number of services from vending machines and long distance phone access to meal plans in the student union as well as using the card at over 200 area merchants.
"What is unique about our card is we have a bank that acts as an agent for the university," Murphy said. "However, the driving force is the university. They have not allowed a merchant or bank to take control of the card."
Murphy said the bank acts merely as a marketing agent for the university and that merchants pay a fee which is not passed on to the student, like a credit card. In this situation, Murphy said students benefit the most from the services provided.
"FSU has found that services that access the card are services students would use," she said.
Murphy said the agent-bank provides the machines for the merchants, which are hardware businesses would have on hand anyway for access to credit card systems, and the equipment doesn't cost the merchants any more than a couple hundred dollars.
"It's really not that expensive," she said. "More merchants are being added all the time."
Besides allowing merchants access, Murphy said FSU's card has expanded privileges to include administrative services enabling students to access transcripts, register for classes, and directly deposit financial aid awards at the beginning of each semester.
Murphy said her center holds seminars for other universities interested in duplicating FSU's successful concept.
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