Downtown E.Z. Charge expansion at standstill

The project will likely not be in place by the original slated date of fall 2011.
Columbia residents and students enjoy food and nice weather Thursday outside Ingredient restaurant. Next semester, E.Z. Charge might allow student to charge at downtown restaurant locations.

Students might eventually be able to use E.Z. Charge at downtown Columbia locations such as Chipotle, Starbucks and Which Wich? if a pending idea is approved.

In 2009, the Missouri Students Association initiated the process of extending E.Z. Charge into downtown. Now, plans are at a standstill as they await evaluation alongside standing university policies.

"I, myself need to work part-time next semester because I'm paying my way through school through loans with minimal scholarship help," freshman Aaron Mack said. "It's not terrible, though it is annoying to know that the school charges on average $700-plus a month to live in a 9-by-11 room with another person paying the same amount."

Mack said he'd like to see E.Z. Charge implemented downtown.

"I think it's a really great choice," Mack said. "The residence halls are fun for a semester or two, but they really impact your budget. You may not notice at first, but $7,000 to $10,000 for room and board is very heavy on some students."

It was initially said the E.Z. Charge that is to be used in several restaurants downtown will differ from the E.Z. Charge used on campus.

"It will essentially be like on-campus E.Z. Charge, but with a debit account system instead of a credit account," former MSA Operations Chairman Justin Mohn said. "We've sold the administration on a debit-style system for E.Z. Charge downtown, now it just has to be vetted and structured by the university to work with their policies."

When the project was first introduced to MU, a starting date of fall 2011 was the target. Mohn said there have been problems that have hindered the original plan.

"MSA is in the 'wait and see' phase of this project," he said. "At this rate, I think it's unlikely that the system will be up and running by fall 2011. That was the time frame as of early fall 2010, but new problems have arisen that need dealt with before it's rolled out. I'd imagine it would take about a semester to put into practice once the policies are there, but there's no time frame right now."

There have been past problems but MSA has found newer problems to mend.

"The IRS has a specific regulation that governs the use of money going into a debit-style service and the university is in the process of figuring out what is required to comply with the regulation," Mohn said.

Mohn said E.Z. Charge downtown has yet to be fully mapped out in terms of details.

"Specifics about the program are currently unavailable since the university is in the process of drafting specifics," he said.

Still, Mohn is adamant the downtown extension of E.Z. Charge will eventually happen.

"My impression is that it's still going to happen," Mohn said. "It's just a matter of when."

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