“Meal and Flex?” It’s a question that resonates throughout dining halls all over campus. Flex dollars are valued among students and typically trigger conversations between friends to see who has the most flex left at the end of the semester. But could you imagine if flex went a step further?
Other state schools in Pennsylvania have utilized the idea of bringing their flex program into their downtown businesses. Taking flex to local businesses ignites a beneficial relationship between the town and the university. Businesses work in cooperation with the university in order to work out a plan where students would be able to use their flex dollars at participating shops and restaurants.
By introducing flex downtown, businesses could use flex as a way to attract more student customers. Michael McHugh, a student at Kutztown University, a school that has already utilized bringing their “Bear Bucks” downtown, likes having more options than what is on campus. McHugh also finds that there is a mutual benefit between the student and the town.
“I think it’s really convenient and it’s also good for the businesses in the community because it helps bring students into their store.”
Kutztown along with Millersville and a few other state schools have already taken their flex program downtown. By doing so, students do not have to worry about carrying cash anywhere, which lessens the likely hood of losing it or getting it stolen. The ease of just having to carry around a single card instead of a wallet or bulky bucks appeals to most everyone.
Since the program has been a success at schools much like our own, it’s a wonder why Bloomsburg has not yet adopted the idea. Gary Girton, Co-owner of Naps Pizza, wonders the same thing.
“This topic is always on my mind, especially at the beginning of the new school year when we have a lot of the new students calling and asking if they can use their flex cash. It would be a real benefit to our restaurant if the students’ flex dollars were truly flexible and could be used downtown.”
Being able to use flex downtown would be a real benefit to places like Naps, especially since the introduction of flex consequently caused a reduced demand for pizza delivery on campus.
“Before the introduction of flex cash in the early ‘90s, “on campus” deliveries were over 30% of our business during the semester,” said Girton, “since then they have declined to less than 10%.”
Business owners aren’t the only people excited about the idea of accepting a new form of payment; Bloomsburg students seem to take kindly to the idea as well. Andrew Hill, a junior at Bloomsburg, likes the idea of extending flex off campus and knows it would open up more of opportunities for students.
“I’m always limited to eating on campus because I never have any cash on me so it would be cool to be able to use my i.d. card to grab a slice or something when I am out on the town.”
Like Gary Girton said, flex should live up to its name and actually be “flexible.” With some cooperation between the university and a few local restaurants, Bloomsburg would be able to offer its students a lot more choices with very little effort. Maybe soon your significant other will be able to take you out to a nice dinner…all on flex.