BY MEGAN McDONOUGH
Students who are already tired of the food at Seacobeck and the Eagle’s Nest can now go off campus for food—and use their EagleOne debit accounts to do it.
Five off-campus restaurants, all near campus—Jake & Mike’s, McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Pizza Hut, and the General Store—have agreed to take part in the EagleOne pilot program this year.
Students will be able to use their EagleOne debit accounts at the local restaurants, but not their campus meal plans. The school is negotiating with other off-campus stores, such as Giant, to expand the list of participating merchants. A number of restaurants contacted by the school, including Chipotle in Central Park, have declined to take part in the program.
Jessica Thompson, the EagleOne Off-Campus Merchant Manager, said UMW has been interested in starting up the off-campus purchase program for a long time.
“It’s been a thought for years,” Thompson said. “The online card office was the beginning step. That is something where you can add money instantaneously using the vending machines so this is the next step. It’s just a work in progress.”
Thompson said the Blackboard Company charges the school to run this program. The Blackboard Envision program, which runs the EagleOne account, also runs the online card office, vending machines, laundry, and on-campus readers.
Running the online card office and various maintenance fees are among some of UMW’s other costs. The University has provided Blackboard equipment for each of the five merchants participating in the pilot program. The equipment for each of these merchants costs $1000 in addition to annual maintenance fees.
“To run the whole program is pretty expensive,” Thompson said.
The money for this program was appropriated through a budget set up in advance for the EagleOne off-campus expansion project.
Thompson hopes that this new dining option will really get students excited.
“The students have really been asking for this, especially dining options,” she said. “The same thing every day could get old. Its good to have something even once a week.”
Thompson encouraged students who are not satisfied with the selection so far to drop by her office in the Woodard Campus Center’s Washroom. Students are also welcome to offer their suggestions via e-mail.
“You can tell the merchant that you want them to accept EagleOne, and then they can contact us,” Thompson said. “We just have to influence the merchant that it would be beneficial to them.”
This summer, students took advantage of using their EagleOne card off-campus and so far feedback has been positive, according to school officials.
“They are doing really well,” Thompson said. “It’s been really successful. Surprisingly successful.”
Students are seemingly eager to use their cards off-campus. Freshman Peter Romagnoli, a resident in Mason Hall, recently used his EagleOne card at Chick-fil-A.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s not my money I’m spending.”
According to Erika Baardsen, who manages Jake & Mike’s along with her fiancé, William Glass, their restaurant had been interested in accepting EagleOne money before UMW even considered the option. Timothy Cuffe, the owner of Jake & Mike’s contacted UMW to suggest the program a year ago.
“Unfortunately at that time, the EagleOne Card was for on-campus dining only and it was not possible for off-campus restaurants and stores to accept the card,” Baardsen said.
About a month and a half ago, UMW contacted Jake & Mike’s and explained their plans to expand the use of EagleOne money off campus.
“As far as a business stand point, it is in our interest to accept the EagleOne Card,” said Baardsen. “Students don’t usually have a lot of cash, and the money they do have they would rather spend on other things.”
Jake & Mike’s is located on William Street, only a couple blocks from campus. They have recently begun a lunch club and have started delivering within the downtown Fredericksburg area.
Off-campus dining options for students are not at all uncommon at other schools. With Virginia Commonwealth University’s RamBucks, students can eat and shop at various places off campus in Richmond. From Starbucks Coffee to Bleecher Street Café to McDonald’s, VCU students have countless places to choose to dine, all included as part of their meal plan. Many other colleges and universities around the country have similar plans which include off-campus dining as well.
Thompson said UMW has no plans to allow students to use their meal plans off-campus, however.
“That is not something that they are considering right now,” she said.