ARCHIVED  February 1, 1998

Norwest Bank, UNC team up to offer student ID/debit card

Lines. Long, long lines. Just ask any University of Northern Colorado student what it was like to pick up his or her financial aid or work-study checks and you˜ hear stories of long waits in long lines."The line was always long," said UNC senior Anna Russo. "You had to wait all day. It was horrible."
Now her work-study checks are electronically deposited in her free Norwest checking account. No lines. No waiting. No hassle.
Russo, like all 10,000 UNC students, has an ID card that has become her lifeline to almost all services provided at the Greeley university. A swipe of the card grants or denies entry into the dining hall, access to the library and recreation center and even to the university˜s toll-free voice-mail messaging service where, among other services, students can call to find out their grades for the semester.
This year, the UNC card was enhanced further when Norwest Bank won a contract to provide banking services as part of the card. Now all UNC checks — financial aid and work-study — are electronically deposited into the student˜s free checking account provided to all students by Norwest. The card also allows free access to Norwest automatic teller machines and works as a debit card. UNC faculty and staff also have the option of opening free accounts with Norwest.
What this all means is that UNC is among the first universities in the United States to provide so many services on one tiny card. And the others are watching to see how well it works. Representatives from Mesa State College in Grand Junction, for example, have been following the program closely and plan to include financial services on its student ID card next year. And Norwest is investigating offering similar banking services in cities where both Norwest and a university are located.
"We see this as a trend both locally and nationally," said Leroy Leavitt, president and managing officer of Norwest Bank in Greeley. "There are only a handful of pilots around the nation. If we can do it well, we can export this program to other Norwest Banks that have universities in their towns."
Leavitt said the genesis for adding the financial component to the UNC Card started four years ago, when Norwest received information about the program in place at Florida State.
"At the time, we didn˜t have the technology to do the program so we gave it to our sister, Norwest Card Services," he said. "They put together a program they thought would work, but it was insufficient. They didn˜t have enough utility for the student. It worked for card services, for the university, but not for the student. It ultimately failed."
A year ago Norwest was approached about taking another look.
"We did research and designed an idea that would work for the student first," Leavitt said. The bank was among six that responded to UNC˜s request for bid and was the only one that met the university˜s requirements.
"This is a partnership (with UNC) in the sense that we use the same card as the UNC ID card," he noted. "It has the Norwest logo on front, along with the UNC logo and student photo."
The back of the card has a bank stripe that lets the student use it at any ATM (no charge at Norwest ATMs), a point-of-sales stripe so students can load it up with money and use it like cash in vending machines and an MCI stripe for long-distance service, for which they do pay.
The Norwest account is free to the student not only for the life of the card — five years — but for the rest of their life if they continue as a Norwest customer.
"The intent is for the program to be profitable," he said. "More importantly, we can attract major blocks of customers, give them good experiences with Norwest, and when they leave, there˜s no reason to close out the account."
Before August, Norwest had 25,000 accounts in Greeley. After students arrived, that number was boosted to 35,000. Most of those were opened within a two-week time frame. And even though Norwest was converting to a new computer system at the same time, few glitches arose. Many students — one in four, according to Leavitt — also opened savings accounts, and others opened money-market accounts and applied for credit cards.
So far, the UNC Card has received enthusiastic praise from not only Norwest Bank, but also from the university and parents.
"We˜ve had many, many parents thanking us," Leavitt said, "They said this is the greatest deal that ever took place. They can walk into any bank in the state and make a deposit for their child." Norwest has 85 member banks in Colorado.
Robert Hetzel, vice president of auxiliary services at UNC, concurred. He said one of the few surprises was to learn how large a deposit some parents make in their child˜s account. Some students, for example, have deposited as much as $20,000 at one time. Providing a safe place for this money — rather than in a drawer in a dorm room — was one of the goals of the program, he said. The primary goal, however, was to have Norwest act as a financial clearinghouse for all checks issued by UNC.
Hand in hand with this new service has been a need to work with students, especially first-year students, by showing them how to write checks, how to reconcile accounts, and provide information on why it˜s a bad idea to write bad checks.
To help meet this need, along with other day-to-day banking services, Norwest has opened a branch at the University Center with one full-time staff member, plus a manager who splits her time between UNC and the La Salle branch. And because students tend to be technologically savvy — i.e. no fear of using automatic teller machines — additional Norwest ATMs will be added to the University. Hetzel said a second one will be installed at the University Center, and perhaps one at the recreation center.
Yet there are aspects of the card that can be improved upon, said Cindy Vetter, manager of the UNC Card Program.
"We want more interlink merchants in Greeley," she said. There are about 50 — Target, King Soopers, Squeeky˜s Laundromat, Toddy˜s, Paper Warehouse, etc. — that accept the card as a debit card.
"We want 350," she said. "We want to be able to use the card as a debit card in any location."
Vetter said she wants to do a better job of marketing this service to merchants. Norwest also plans to make it attractive to merchants, Leavitt said. In exchange for joining the interlink system and adding the necessary key pad at a nominal cost, Norwest will advertise the business to students on campus as an interlink merchant.

Lines. Long, long lines. Just ask any University of Northern Colorado student what it was like to pick up his or her financial aid or work-study checks and you˜ hear stories of long waits in long lines."The line was always long," said UNC senior Anna Russo. "You had to wait all day. It was horrible."
Now her work-study checks are electronically deposited in her free Norwest checking account. No lines. No waiting. No hassle.
Russo, like all 10,000 UNC students, has an ID card that has become her lifeline to almost all services provided…

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