Want to get more bang for your Board Bucks?

by Beacon Staff • October 11, 2006

You and your roomies are getting ready to watch "The Colbert Report" and your stomachs are growling.

The Emerson Dining Hall closed 30 minutes ago and the bag of stale Cheetos on the kitchenette counter isn't looking so appetizing.,It's 8:30 on a Friday night.

You and your roomies are getting ready to watch "The Colbert Report" and your stomachs are growling.

The Emerson Dining Hall closed 30 minutes ago and the bag of stale Cheetos on the kitchenette counter isn't looking so appetizing.

Everyone searches for cash, but all you have among the group is 78 cents, a hacky-sack and an expired pass to a screening of Gridiron Gang.

If only Emerson's Board Bucks worked at places like Dunkin' Donuts and Dominos, you and your buddies wouldn't be stuck in such a predicament.

Other colleges have solved this problem.

According to its Web site, Boston University has a Convenience Points Plan that allows students to use their points beyond the typical scope of laundry machines and the bookstore; their points are accepted at such places as Dominos Pizza, Jamba Juice, and D'Angelos.

For those students with kosher dietary restrictions, the points are accepted at the kosher dining hall, Hillel House.

If a parent or friend is feeling generous, they can add Convenience Points to a BU student's account through the school's Web site; however, the student must already have that plan.

According to the Web site, possibly the best part of the Convenience Points is that if any points remain unspent, they are completely refundable through a written request.

Matthew Gagne, a sophomore at Boston University, explained the Convenience Points the following way: "Here's the deal: If you put 10 bucks on it, it's 10 bucks. We have something called the George Sherman Union, and in the GSU is a number of restaurants, and they are all on-campus restaurants so you can use the Convenience Points there."

The GSU is comprised of mostly nationally known food franchises and are varied enough to please every palette. When students enroll at BU, the school gives them $25, and "one point equals one dollar."

The points can be used for the laundry machines as well.

Although Gagne claims the Convenience Points are "a lot more convenient," he still prefers Northeastern University's (NU) Dining Dollars, which he says are "accepted everywhere."

Andrew Mahoney, director of auxiliary services at Emerson, said the college plans on evaluating a program allowing students to make off-campus purchases using their IDs.

"We are still adjusting to the consolidation of the campus," he said. "And prior to implementing any new programs we want to ensure that those programs already in place are functioning at the best possible level."

According to Tim Cooney, director of operations at NU's catering service, Chartwell's, NU students enjoy the convenience of using Dining Dollars at more than 80 off-campus locations.

Cooney said he has worked at Chartwell's for over ten years, and NU has always had the Dining Dollars program as far as he could remember.

When asked how NU got local vendors involved, Cooney said, "they went around and recruited them."

The school also surveyed students and further solicited those vendors that students requested.

Both the vendors and the students benefit from the program because the vendors are able to attract students that otherwise wouldn't visit and the students are able to travel with limited quantities of cash since "your card has everything on it," Cooney said.

He doesn't believe the program has any downfalls, especially since neither the student nor the vendor is charged with a service fee.

"It has to work for the student," Cooney said.

But unlike BU and NU, Emerson College's Board Bucks limit students to on-campus eateries-the Little Building dining hall, the Little Building convenience store and the diner in the Max Mutchnick Campus Center.

The concept of flexible points is not unique to the Boston region.

On the West Coast, the University of California San Diego offers Dining Dollars which can be used at a number of local eateries, according to the college's Web site.

When UCSD students purchase additional Dining Dollars, they earn a 20 percent bonus, which means $100 becomes $120.

Students must purchase the Dollars wisely, however, because they expire after every academic year and are non-refundable.

The points and dollars are intended to be more convenient for students since they are liberated from carrying cash.

The student's ID card serves as a bank debit card, but unlike a typical debit card, the ID displays the student's photo for identity verification.

This system works better than cash because the card can be replaced if lost; cash, however, is usually never seen again.

Off-campus students at Emerson sometimes get the shaft if they have a busy schedule and can't find the time to eat in the dining hall.

"I'm not always on campus, so I'm not sure if I'm going to use all 50 meals at the Emerson dining hall," said James O'Leary, a sophomore broadcast journalism major and off-campus student. "If off-campus restaurants accepted Board Bucks, or actually deducted from the total 50 meals I may use them all by the end of the semester."