New dining plan may include off-campus restaurants

Students may be able to pay with their student ID cards at off-campus restaurants beginning next semester, a university official said.

Emily Burgwyn, director of Student Affairs and Information Services, said the university is outsourcing the project to Off-Campus Advantage, a company which, according to its Web site, is based in Ithaca, N.Y., and specializes in building off-campus payment networks channeled through student IDs.

Off-Campus Advantage staff members did not return phone calls about the program.

Burgwyn said the restaurants where students will be able to use their ID cards depends on which merchants decide to participate.

The operation will most likely start at restaurants within walking distance of campus, but could eventually reach as far as Hulen Street, Burgwyn said.

Students would be able to pay for their meals at participating off-campus restaurants with “points,” which will be given to students as part of the new dining plan, Burgwyn said.

The points would be built into the plan and come at no extra cost to students, said Craig Allen, director of Residential Services. Students will have the option to add more points to their plan at $1 per point, Allen said.

Students would receive anywhere from 100 to 450 points depending on which level of the dining plan is purchased, Allen said.

Allen said the ability to use dining plan dollars off campus will be one of the first in the country, as off-campus points at most other universities must be purchased separately and are not included in dining plans.

“I don’t know of any other schools that have a program like this,” Allen said.

Students will receive special discounts in restaurants, such as discounts on certain days of the week, but no permanent discounts, Burgwyn said.

Student Government Association President Thomas Pressly, who led the initiative to allow students to use their ID cards off campus, said he is pleased that it may become a reality.

“It shows that the administration is willing to work with the students,” Pressly said. “And that’s the way it should be.”