Technical Difficulties Keep Jasper Dollars Off-Line

Jasper dollars, or money stored on students’ school ID cards that can be used to purchase food, are on track to be available to spend at select off-campus restaurants in the next couple weeks, Ken Waldhof, director of business and conference services, said Friday.

“We only signed [a contract with the new company] after some discussions and negotiation,” Waldhof said.  “Since that time, their team, our IT staff, our card office… have been working to transition to the new program.”

Students have been unable to use their Jasper dollars off-campus so far this semester, as the company that formerly facilitated their use off-campus went out of business in the spring.  Since then, the Business and Finance Office has been working with the IT and card offices to identify and work with a new vendor to handle the off-campus Jasper dollars transactions.

Dishout, a company that provides a similar service to colleges and universities around the country, was the vendor selected to handle the off-campus Jasper dollars transactions and has been working to recruit and re-enroll merchants in the area to accept them, according to Waldhof.

“The holdup has really been all of the technology and integration,” Waldhof said, referring to card readers and accounts that have to be set up for merchants accepting Jasper dollars.  “Everything really has to be started from scratch.”

“Once everything is tested and proven to work… all the readers are installed at the merchants… it’s just a matter of telling students they can use their cards off campus,” Waldhof said.

As of this weekend, seven merchants have enrolled and will be ready to accept Jasper dollars once the system officially rolls out.  The merchants include, among others, Dunkin Donuts, Generico Pizza, Goodfellas Pizza and Jasper Deli.  Waldhof said Dishout is working to enroll other merchants as well, including a Chipotle opening in the neighborhood soon.

“I think that would be a huge enhancement,” Waldhof said of working on a deal with Chipotle.

Until the system is fully up and running, students have to use their Jasper dollars at on-campus locations or shell out their own money at off-campus restaurants.  While some say they understand that the school is working to make Jasper dollars available for use off-campus, many expressed frustration at the amount of time it is taking to implement the new systems.

“I’m very upset,” junior Carolyn Egan said.  “Maybe it makes sense to them, but I don’t really get why they didn’t do this over the summer.”

“It’s handy to just pull out the card and swipe it,” junior Doug McVicker said.  “I’ve just been having to use my own money, which is definitely inconvenient.”

The inaccessibility of Jasper dollars at off-campus locations has also caused a number of students to alter their eating habits.

“I would definitely go out [to eat] more often if I could use my Jasper dollars,” McVicker said.  “It’s just easier.”

“I haven’t been going to the off-campus locations as often,” senior Mike Crocitto said.  “As a substitute I’ve been eating more fruits and proteins that I buy at the grocery store.”

Crocitto, an Overlook Manor resident who is on a special meal plan available for students in his building, receives 160 Jasper dollars per semester, compared with the 25 that students on the standard meal plan receive.  Because of this, Crocitto said he tends to use his Jasper dollars more frequently than students on the traditional meal plan.

“It’s actually good in a way […] because I’m being a little healthier,” Crocitto said.  “But in another sense I’m spending more money.”

Off-campus merchants accustomed to students spending Jasper dollars expressed anticipation about the restoration of the off-campus Jasper dollar system.  Individual merchants, however, reported mixed experiences regarding student spending habits while the system has been suspended.

“[Business] is not as good,” Goodfellas Pizza manager Mike Orfano said.  “It’s much better when [Jasper Dollars] are working.”

“A lot of kids come in here disappointed too,” Orfano said.  “I get about ten students per day on average come in and ask.”

Down the block at Jasper Deli, Jay, a cashier who declined to give his last name, reported similar student inquiries about being able to use Jasper dollars but said that it has not had a significant impact on business.

“A lot come in and ask if [Jasper dollars] are available,” Jay said.  “But they still buy something.”

Waldhof said he expects to have a ‘go-live’ date within a couple of days, and is prepared to spread the news once it is available.

“We’re already working with our marketing and communications team,” Waldhof said.  “We’ll immediately get the word out once they’re available.”

For more coverage on the new meal plan specifics, click here. For information about off-campus Jasper dollars and which vendors are opting out, click here.