More off-campus businesses might accept Colonial Cash now that the University has signed a multiyear contract with Blackboard that will provide the technological support needed to expand GWorld operations.
The D.C.-based software company, which provides the University with electronic learning services, will manage each partner’s account and will allow more area businesses to team up with GW to accept student meal points. About 70 area businesses are on a wait list to become GWorld partners.
GW did not add any new vendors to the Colonial Cash program last year except for new businesses located inside residence halls such as Ivory Tower and 1957 E St. Students can use GWorld cards at nearly 100 on- and off-campus GWorld partners, more than half of which are dining venues.
Executive Vice President and Treasurer Louis Katz said the new system should be functional within a month. He is unsure of how or when GW will select new partners.
“I’m not sure what the process will be,” Katz said. “The goal is to have the system up and running within 30 days – to be sure that it is stable.”
Currently, Katz’s office manages all GWorld accounts, an arrangement that has gotten increasingly costly and time-consuming as the points program has expanded. Blackboard, which also operates the University’s academic portal, will manage GWorld partners’ accounts. Katz said the goal of the new software system “is to offer the best choices to the students.”
While Katz said he expects new vendors to be added to the program, he said all current GWorld partners will be evaluated to determine their future relationship with the University.
“It won’t necessarily be a net addition – we might take some vendors off the system and add others,” Katz said. “If we opened it up to every business it would not make a lot of sense to anybody.”
Katz refused to discuss the costs of the contract, saying only that “not a significant amount of money” was involved.
Since the University introduced the Colonial Cash system last year, many area businesses have reported significant increases in revenue. Katz said GW will also begin to pay businesses GWorld revenues on a daily instead of weekly basis.
Katz denied rumors that a contract with Aramark, GW’s food service provider, prevented GWorld from adding new business partners to control competition. He would not comment on whether Aramark tried to curb Colonial Cash’s growth when it was negotiating its 10-year contract extension with the University.
GW has been heavily criticized by outside vendors for its bureaucratic procedures for handling prospective GWorld partners.
Carla Kostoff, owner of the News Stand in the 2000 Penn mall, said she has “never been able to talk” with people involved in the program.
Student Association President Omar Woodard, who has been lobbying GW to expand its meal points program, said he supports the University’s contract with Blackboard.
“You compensate for having less venues in the Marvin Center with more off campus,” Woodard said. “That’s a fair deal.”
-Michael Barnett contributed to this report.