If you’re making a purchase on campus chances are it’s a card transaction, and the decision typically comes down to either a student ID or a standard debit/credit card.
In fact, plastic is so popular that cash is being rendered nearly obsolete in certain areas of campus. At least that’s the case in Penn State dining halls, where cash is no longer being accepted after logging low amounts of cash transactions.
According to a report from Onward State, rather than making cash purchases at dining halls, students must use Lioncash or a Commuter Meal Plan. Students who wish to make food purchases with cash may still do so, albeit at select dining locations within certain residence halls on campus.
Penn State Residential Dining told Onward State that the reason for limiting cash-accepting vendors on campus is the cost of labor to manage cash transactions. In particular, the costs associated with managing the cash bag system, along with the amount of operating hours and the number of cashiers was becoming infeasible. South Halls — one of Penn State’s residential commons — was spending between $10,000 to $12,000 per month in labor to manage its cash bag system.
Penn State ran a cost analysis across all residential dining locations to determine just how much it was spending to accept cash versus the amount of cash it accepted, in terms of labor. Results of that analysis indicated that many of the residential dining locations were collecting the smallest percentage of cash on campus. With those results, the decision was made to discontinue cash payment at those locations that were underperforming in cash transactions.
“Since Housing and Food Services is part of Auxiliary Services, our goal is to specifically serve our on-campus residents, who generally don’t use cash,” explains James Richard, associate director of Residential Dining at Penn State. “Over 99% of our business in residential dining is done with the swipe card.”
There were, however, some holdout dining locations that still see a number of cash transactions, two of which reportedly have the highest percentage of cash transactions on campus in terms of sales.
Residential Dining believes that could be the result of those locations being in close proximity to university staff areas, as staff have proven more keen to use cash than students. Nevertheless, those two locations will continue to accept cash payment and will be the last to convert if the university decides to make the change.