Students in the dark about Colonial Cash rollover policy

The GWorld Office in 2004 implemented a new policy allowing Colonial Cash points to roll over from year to year, instead of expiring in May. But in interviews last week, many students and staff said the University is doing a poor job of informing people about the 10-month-old reform.

Under the current policy, which went into effect in June 2004, GW will not take away unused points at the end of the spring semester, said Eric Hougen, project manager for the Office of Business and Operations. The points will only expire if they are not used in a 35-month period, meaning graduates can still use their GWorld cards for purchases. [Click here to read the policy.]

“It is something that students asked for,” Hougen said. “We know that it is a big benefit for students … an enhancement to the program.”

In fall 2003, the University launched Colonial Cash as the merging of the meal points and debit dollars programs. Colonial Cash’s on-campus predecessor, meal points, never carried over; debit dollars, an optional program that let students make purchases at off-campus venues, did have annual rollover.

Hougen declined to comment on where unused points went in past years, or how much money the University took in from them annually.

In light of the new rollover policy, GW administrators said they hope students will no longer feel forced to purchase iPods and other superfluous products with their unused points at the end of the year.

“We made the change so whoever the students are who feel compelled to spend their money, don’t have to do that,” Hougen said.

Freshman Michael Hyland said he is very pleased with this benefit of the new policy, having heard from upperclassmen about eating less on GWorld to save up for gadgets.

“I really hope they get the information out,” he said in reference to his never hearing about the new Colonial Cash policy before being approached for this story.

Outgoing Student Association President Omar Woodard said his organization has lobbied the University for years to allow Colonial Cash to rollover.

“It’s kind of shocking that this information hasn’t trickled down,” Woodard said. “But in my last couple weeks I’ll make sure that it does somehow, some way.”

Woodard added that he plans to work with the GWorld Office this week to send out a mass e-mail to the student body explaining the rollover policy.

Mass e-mails, which can be sent to anyone with a University e-mail address, take three business days to process once the proper paperwork is filled out, according to the Information Systems and Services GWMail Policy. [Click here to read the policy.]

“We only use mass e-mail for special, big occurrences,” Hougen said. He added that there have been no plans to send out one outlining the Colonial Cash policy change.

Hougen, who oversees the business operations of the GWorld program, said employees have made the student body aware of the policy change. The program’s office has spoken with “a lot of customers … fully aware” of the new policy, he said.

A one-sentence reminder about the policy – “Students, remember that your Colonial Cash will carry over from year to year!” – can be found below a picture on http://gworld.gwu.edu. Hougen cited the 2,000 daily hits of the GWorld homepage as evidence of the message getting out.

He said the University’s plan to publicize the Colonial Cash reform includes material on the GWorld Web site, posters in the GWorld office and information sessions at Colonial Inauguration. He said these measures, coupled with GWorld staff being trained how to answer questions about the new policy, has been effective.

“We’re trying to keep our finger on the pulse of what students know,” Hougen said. “We are definitely tracking this – this is important to us.”

Hyland, who attended CI the same month the new policy went into effect, said he was never told about the rollover plan. Unable to attend the optional meeting led by GWorld representatives, he learned of the old policy during the school year from freshman neighbors in Mitchell Hall.

“Maybe they thought (the Web site) was the most effective way to get that information out, but apparently it’s not,” Hyland said. “Administration should be told that, and they need to find another way to get the (policy) out.”

Junior Kelly Cogswell was also unaware of the new policy. “It doesn’t seem like the University is doing its job in getting the word out,” she said.

Freshman Vanessa Wong attended the optional GWorld meeting at CI, where she learned 10 months ago about the new rollover policy. But she said she thinks the majority of freshmen aren’t aware of it.

“I continued to tell people that were telling me otherwise (about Colonial Cash rollover) … but they made me doubt my information; they were positive,” Wong said. “I told them it was a new policy, and they still said ‘no.'”

Students aren’t the only ones without knowledge of the new policy. Tour guides have not been told about Colonial Cash rollover, and consequently many prospective students have been misinformed.

“It is more or less a ‘use-or-lose’ policy,” said Rahsaan Burroughs, assistant director of Undergraduate Admissions. “We tell students that the points do not roll over from year to year, but from semester to semester.”

Burroughs said that no one from the GWorld Office contacted Admissions with information about the new policy.

Pat Lee, manager of the GW Bookstore, was also unaware of a formal change to Colonial Cash policy.

“I have not heard it officially from anyone,” Lee said. “I don’t know that it’s a fact or not.”

Seeing higher-than-average sales of iPods at the end of spring 2004, she had predicted the same for this year if Colonial Cash expired in May. She is not sure how sales and inventory will be affected under the new policy, which she has heard of only through rumors.

“We think that we’ll see greater penetration of this message as we get closer to the end of the semester,” Hougen said. “If it gets close to summer and we feel we need to push the message more aggressively, we’ll look into other options.”

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