September 27, 2020

BY JOSH BURY

Conestoga College students could eventually be able to pay for lunch, access the new rec centre and board the bus all with one card.

During the March 5 meeting of the Conestoga Students Inc. board of directors,  Mike Dinning, the college’s vice-president of student affairs, spoke briefly about a “one-card” program that would, among other things, provide access to the rec centre’s services.

“How do we manage access to the new rec centre? … We tie the membership system into the student information system,” Dinning said.

But he also mentioned that such a card could be used for other purposes, as it could have up to six magnetic stripes. Services like bus passes, printing quotas or even a meal plan could be implemented as part of the program.

For example, the University of Waterloo has a similar plan called the WatCard. The card can be loaded with funds which can be used for services on campus such as laundry, photocopying, printing and food. It also controls access to the library and to their physical activity centre.

Dinning’s discussion of the card was simply to alert the board that a proposal would be forthcoming in September  2014. He estimates that the program would take six to eight months to implement. Recommendations on services to be offered initially will be decided by a committee that will be formed for this purpose.

Developing such a card will take money. An early estimation by Dinning points to anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 to develop the system, with a more accurate amount to be included in September’s proposal.
Where is this money coming from?

As proposed, it would come from student fees – specifically, from the $94.90 “priority fee” which is charged to enrich non-academic student life programming. This fee was initially brought in when the Student Life Centre was built, and currently pays for things like orientation, the Respect campaign, career advisers and some summer student employment on-campus. Both Spoke and CJIQ also receive some funding from this fee.

Dinning said when Mohawk College implemented a similar card, they had to increase their fees by $40 per person.

But he was quick to add that the priority fee at Conestoga would not need to be increased to pay for this system since, as it stands, the fee has generated a surplus of about $495,000 over multiple years. Besides annual cost of living adjustments, the fee has not been increased since 1996.

The agreement between the college and CSI for this surplus is that it be used only for “special projects” that require a “significant allocation” of funds and are non-academic in nature.

Both Conestoga students and the board that represents them at CSI should have more specific information this fall.

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