As Students Return, CU Adds Debit Function To University ID Cards

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Oakland University students need their identification cards every where they go on campus. The ID cards open the door to the recreation center, check books out of the library and pay for Golden Grizzlies T-shirts at campus stores.

A new program between Oakland University and Credit Union ONE will add a debit function to student IDs that can also be used off campus. Richard Fekel, director of the Oakland Center (the student union), said the school sent out a request for proposals (RFP) to area financial institutions asking for the debit service, but also for an on-campus presence.

Credit Union ONE responded with a plan for four ATMs, a small branch office and the debit function for student IDs. "Our whole premise was that they should be in the student center, close to the card office," Fekel said.

Oakland University had also used the ID cards as pre-loaded pay cards called "Spirit Cash" that students and parents could use for school books, tuition and other normal academic costs. Fekel said pre-paid ID cards also helped the university cut out paper checks for student payroll and financial aid. With the launch of new MasterCard debit cards, Oakland U. students will be able to use the loaded cards at any approved MC location or ATM, even off campus.

Fekel said is was important to school officials that students, especially incoming freshmen, can easily get an ID card at the student union. Students walk in the school card office, register, have their picture snapped and walk across the hallway to open a checking account at the credit union, if they want the debit feature. Fekel said he was aware of only one other university or college in the nation that produces and activates cards for its students and that Credit Union ONE built the system from scratch.

"These guys were clever enough to do it. They had the best approach," Fekel said.

How The Card Works

Students don't have to sign up with the credit union to obtain a regular ID for campus use. But they won't have the ability to use the card off-campus, either. Fekel said with Credit Union ONE across the hallway from the ID office, students can obtain a working debit card in about five minutes after signing with the new CU branch. "This is a brick-and-mortar credit union right here on campus," Fekel said. "That really sets us apart."

Fekel also stressed that the new cards have no credit function at all and only uses funds applied by students, their families or academic sources, such as pre-paid meal plans or financial aid. Oakland U. is starting with the incoming 2005 freshmen class and will expand the program to the rest of the school's 16,000 enrolled students.

The $750-million Credit Union ONE has had a 15-year relationship with Oakland University, helping sponsor internships and athletic events. Tom Schaeffler is executive vice president at Credit Union ONE and said the CU's first proposal was made in April 2004. Schaeffler said the university wanted the new debit function and branch opening completed in one year. Credit Union ONE took over an 800-square-foot existing space at the student union and spent roughly $200,000 gutting and installing teller and office equipment.

"We met all the requirements and it's going quite well," Schaeffler said.

Schaeffler said the new branch and debit cards were started in the middle of May 2005 and 400 students had signed up for the cards in the first two months. Schaeffler said the CU has received good feedback from students, parents and even members who have children attending Oakland University. He expects a larger influx of new checking accounts when the fall semester starts and said students don't have to wait 24 hours to activate their all-in-one ID card.

"When they walk out, they can use the card right then and there," Schaeffler said.

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