At the beginning of this academic year the college rolled out the OneCard program and new meal plans. The OneCard program has two major component— changing the meal plan and allowing electronic access to dorms and academic buildings.
Overall the OneCard program is costing the college around $2 million. The most expensive part of the project is the labor required to update the buildings.
At the beginning of the school year, all students were issued their OneCard, the new technology that comes along with these cards is what has allowed the change in meal plan, including access to merchants in the Ville. Over the last couple of years the college has been working on designing a meal plan that increases flexibility for students.
The Dining Committee, which includes both faculty and students, met several times last year to discuss ways to improve students’ dining experience on campus.
There are now more options for meal plans. Previously there had only been three meal plan options, while this year there are four and an off-campus plan. All of these plans include more points, some of which can only be used to buy food on campus while others can be used at certain vendors in the Ville. In addition to the changes to meal plan options, Essie Maes now offers a wider variety of food options.
Sarah Branch ’17 thinks the new meal plan is an improvement from the old one, but would like it to be easier to check how many meal swipes have been used. Currently students can check how many meal swipes and points have been used on the OneCard website. The OneCard office is working on an app that students will be able to download to check their OneCard balance, the app will be ready before the end of the academic year.
“I’m pretty happy with the meal plan, I guess one thing I’m concerned about is keeping track of my meals because it is a block plan … Other than that I am excited about the points in the Ville and the addition to Essie’s,” said Branch.
The planning process incorporated a variety of students’ interests when formulating the new meal plan. This includes an option for unlimited meal swipes, which some athletes appreciate, meal options for off-campus residents, more choices for students with food allergies, and allowing students who stay on campus over-breaks to continue to have a variety of food options.
“One of the things we’ve really been trying to think more comprehensively about is how do we support our growing population of low-income students on campus. And one of the things that was brought to our attention [is a lack of food options during breaks],” said Liz Braun, Dean of Students. “Now with the increase in points, and also being able to use the points down in the Ville, that means that students who know they are going to be here over break periods can be thoughtful about budgeting their points to make sure that they are going to have coverage for those break periods.”
While most students have the option of four different meal plans freshman are confined to just two options
“I feel like I’ve used a lot of points, or more than is sustainable if I want to do that for the rest of the year. So I would like a meal plan that has a higher point to swipe ratio [to be available for freshman]” said Sydnie Schwarz ’20.
Many students have already taken advantage of the ability to use points in the Ville at places such as Bamboo Bistro and Hobbs but the Swarthmore co-op was slower to be added to the program.
Greg Brown, Vice President of Finance, says the delay with the co-op was caused by logistical problems such as issues revolving around the co-ops recent change in management and larger size compared to other merchants.
The increase in points helps add flexibility to students’ dining options, but despite the vast increase in meal plan options and in points, Dining Services will not see an increase in its budget.
“Most of what we’re doing is reallocation within the Dining Services budget. If you think about it the food commodities are pretty much the same pricing. So what we need to watch very carefully this year is whether we have to move staff from one unit to another unit, but so far we think we’re able to do this basically by reallocation,” said Brown.
The second part of the OneCard project is allowing the card itself to act as a key to different buildings on campus. This includes equipping both residents halls and academic buildings with the technology that responds to identifying a OneCard allowing students, faculty, and staff to use OneCards as keys.
Residence halls will be updated first and is expected to be completed by the end of the academic year. When the doors are equipped with the OneCard technology, students will be able to access all dorms during the day during open hours, which are currently set from 8 a.m. to midnight. After midnight, students will only be able to access their own dorms.
Dean Braun says the goal of this part of the project is to increase a feeling of community by opening up different spaces to all students, and to also stop door propping which allows people not affiliated with the college to enter dorms.
Over the next two to three years, the college will begin equipping academic building doors with OneCard technology. Discussion is still being had over what time of day these buildings will be locked and, who will have access to the buildings at different times of day.
OneCard is also helping streamline various processes on the administrative side of the college. The new OneCard technology allows the administration to enable specifics parts of the OneCard program for individual cards at anytime times.
“It’s a service platform that enables us to provide … better services, more flexible meal plans. In terms of running the college, it provides a platform where we can do that a lot more efficiently and so kind of behind us there’s a lot of automation,” said Anthony Coschignano, Executive Director of Auxiliary Services. “So when you register for classes that’s pushed into the OneCard system and if you register for a CS course you get into a labs, and nobody had to do anything except you registered for classes. So having that flow between some of the information services on campus and then into the OneCard system it just enables us to provide services at a much better level than if we had three people filling out papers and handing them back and forth. A lot of this is automated.”
The college will continue to advance the OneCard system this year and in the next couple of years. They hope to continue to roll-out different parts of the system as they become ready and work through the problems as they come up.