Jamaica Gleaner / This is a contribution from UTech’s School of Engineering Student Representative Council.
The University of Technology (UTech) has implemented a new ‘fully cashless’ system. During the first week of this academic semester, the question was asked, ‘Why did the university decide to take that path?’ The collective response was ‘Ask the finance department.’
We were of the impression that this new system would have eliminated hard cash transactions and not monetary transactions in its entirety. While the decision to implement the system took into consideration the safety of students and stakeholders, as mentioned by Carmen Facey in The Gleaner article, ‘UTech goes cashless’, it was done so prematurely. And we are asking that the system be re-evaluated, as it is flawed.
The University of Technology, having a fully functional accounting department, should have cash-receivable registers. They should be able to facilitate debit- and credit-card transactions and manager’s cheques and minor monetary transactions as well.
Finance Department, please remember that the university offers on its campus items deemed necessary for our academic advancement, i.e., lab books, protective gear and printing credit. There is also the issue of transcript requests. These are just a few of the everyday issues certain to come up if a slower transition into this system isn’t observed.
Yes, there is the option of Bill Express and Paymaster on campus, and NCB branches off campus for tuition payment. However, everytime a student makes a deposit to a Bill Express or Paymaster, the service charge is $50. This is a small amount compared to the already exorbitant school fees, but for adding $100 credit to my printing quota, it becomes 50 per cent more than what we paid just last semester.
We would like to believe that it was an oversight of the university that there isn’t an existing NCB branch on campus. This means that students would have to pay more than a service charge of $50 in the form of bus fare to get to the closest NCB branch and back.
The KeyCard offered by NCB, a partner in the cashless system, is the next glitch. Growing up, I was told not everything that glitters is gold, the KeyCard has a maximum-day capacity of $100,000, and anyone who attends UTech knows that for a full-time student, it is highly unlikely one’s school fee would be below $100,000. I also looked at the deception of rates and charges associated with the card and there was nothing mentioned about online payment. However, it is free for payment over the counter at NCB.
Now we’re left to wonder, does the university consider the convenience of its customers? Was the cashless system implemented as a mutual benefit for both administration and student? Or was it intended to offload the pressure of the institutions’ inability to cater for its growing client base because of insufficient staffing?
The rationale behind the implementation, though relevant, will not solve the issue at hand; there are many improvements to be made. Here are some suggestions that we believe would improve the system:
Re-allow debit and credit card, manager’s cheque and minor monetary transactions in accounts receivables and increase the number of cashiers. Allow the financial intuitions already on campus to collect UTech’s money; or open a branch for your trusted partners on campus. Revisit the KeyCard cash agreement and allow any transaction on the card to be charge free. Consult with other well-known institutions of learning that have gone cashless. We strongly believe a cashless system can work, but as students in this current economic hardship, we will not support a cashless system that contributes to cashless pockets. Finance Department, please consider our suggestions as we, the students, await the implementations of the more rational suggestions.
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