I-card options will expand in fall 2007
You can use it to get into your dorm room, buy a soda at the Quad Shop and pay for photocopies of an article.
And starting next fall, University of Illinois students will be able to take their UI identification card off campus and buy a beer at a Green Street pub or a book at a store across town.
The University of Illinois is considering adding another dimension to the i-card: linking it to a checking account.
Last week the UI issued a request for proposals from financial institutions interested in providing banking services to students.
"What we're trying to achieve is a higher level of convenience and functionality," said Peter Newman, the UI's director of treasury operations.
There are places on campus where the i-card acts somewhat like a debit card, allowing students to buy items at the Illini Union, but those accounts are run by the UI. The new plans call for linking the i-card to a bank or credit union-managed account. The program would be available for students on all three UI campuses: Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.
The UI wants the prospective financial institution to provide financial education to students, agree to restrictions on credit card marketing and offer special assistance for international students, Newman said.
In addition, UI administrators would like to see the financial company have a physical presence on the campuses, with one branch on the Urbana-Champaign campus and at least two in Chicago, with one on the east side and another on the west side of campus. A UIS branch would be up to the financial institution, Newman said.
The campuses already have affiliations with member-owned credit unions – Credit Union 1 at UIC, Sangamon Schools Credit Union at UIS and UI Employees Credit Union at Urbana.
The Urbana-based University of Illinois Employees Credit Union is weighing whether to bid for the job, said Greg Anderson, executive vice president of the UI Employees Credit Union.
"We're based here, we serve members here, and while we have some members on other campuses, they're mainly on faculty side. We're talking about not just expanding our current market but going to a whole new market," Anderson said.
If the UI Employees Credit Union does submit a proposal, it could be competing with larger regional or national banks for the contract.
Minnesota-based TCF Bank, for example, already has established business relationships with several other major universities for similar programs.
At Northern Illinois University, students use a OneCard and have the option of Huskie Bucks, a prepaid debit account for laundry, vending and other items. But they also have option of linking the card to a TCF Bank account. Similar programs also are at the University of Minnesota and Northwestern University.
"It would be a very large extension of what we do," Anderson said.
The credit union has about 5,000 to 6,000 students from the Urbana-Champaign campus as members. The student population on all three UI campuses totals around 70,000.
Newman said he believes the credit unions, if they were not the winning bidders, would be able to coexist with the student financial services provider.
For the past few years, the UI has used its Springfield campus as somewhat of a testing bed for the program, Newman said.
About a month and a half ago, students on all three campuses were surveyed about their willingness for such a program. They expressed interest in adding a PIN-based ATM feature to the i-card, in addition to overdraft protections, online bill paying and international banking services, Newman said.
The request for proposals was first published last Thursday. Proposals are due Oct. 24.
The UI expects to shorten the list of potential financial services providers, conduct interviews and choose the provider by Dec. 1 in order to seek UI Board of Trustees approval by mid-January 2007.
By the time student orientation begins next spring, Newman said, he hopes to have a prospective banking provider lined up and a branch open with extended hours by mid-August. And by the time fall rolls around, students' cards would be linked with the checking accounts and they can use them around campus and their towns.
The committee overseeing the process includes representatives from student affairs on all three campuses, staff with cash management and treasury operations as well as from the i-card program area.