RISD Banking Program: No More Calls Home for Cash?

Electronic banking is simplifying finances for students, parents, and campus administrators. In the “old” days, student finances worked like this: In the fall, parents or the student mailed a tuition payment to the school. They might have mailed separate checks covering books and room and board, and various payments for fees and services. Usually the student had a checking account on or near campus, from which money would slowly drain. Along the way, there might be checks and emergency wire transfers from home to cover sudden cash needs, payroll deposits from the student’s own part-time employment, financial aid payments, and other debits and credits. With the second semester, the cycle would begin anew.
But things are different now, thanks to the interface of electronic banking with campus administrative systems. Student debit cards, which allow students to purchase books, meals, and parking permits, among other things, were the first wave. Now, because of new banking applications designed to link seamlessly with enterprise-level campus systems, universities are able to offer students and their families much more powerful, versatile, and flexible financial tools.
One of the first out of the gate is the Bank of Rhode Island’s CampusMate program, which can link all of a student’s banking and school-based accounts, making financial management easier for students, parents, and college administrators. CampusMate, now in use at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, is both an online bank account for students and a back office system for the college.
Its approach opens up new opportunities for both families and universities. The program gives parents the ability to fund all of a student’s financial needs electronically and instantly, either via the Internet or over the telephone.
No more waiting for the check to arrive, or traveling to the Western Union office when the wire transfer g'es through. CampusMate’s patent-pending product has three main elements. One feature is an option for parents to set up various accounts (for instance, one for tuition, one for meals, one for miscellaneous expenses), thereby ensuring that the basics get funded and that money g'es to the bursar and not to beer. All of a student’s activity accounts can be linked, so that the parent can fund them simultaneously. The university chooses which accounts to include in its particular program. RISD is using the full complement of CampusMate features, although they could have picked selectively from a menu of options.
The second element of CampusMate is an online bank account for students. The account gives students the use of a MasterCard Debit Card, free ATM access, and check writing ability. Most importantly, it gives students, or parents, the ability to fund the account via the Internet or through a credit card. An e-mail notice informs the student that an account has been funded. If the university so chooses, it can host Bank of Rhode Island ATM machines, but it d'es not have to.
Finally, representatives from CampusMate claim the system streamlines financial administration for colleges and universities. A university gets fast, automatic deposits, electronic tracking, and automated reports that can be sorted by account, parent, student, or transaction for any account it wishes to add to the program.
The product can be added to any existing financial systems at the university or college, even those that are a combination of legacy systems and homegrown applications. Says CampusMate's Pat Henrati, "It's truly a plug-and-play system. The university d'esn't have to change anything or buy any new systems to accommodate CampusMate."
The Bank of Rhode Island introduced its first CampusMate Program at RISD last summer. Co-branded with the school, the program was geared specifically for RISD students. A RISD student designed the card, and information on the program was sent to new students on an interactive CD-ROM. The CD-ROM won the Vertical Award in Financial Services from the Massachusetts Interactive Media Council. This annual award recognizes the best in interactive media.

For more information on CampusMate, visit the Bank of Rhode Island's Web site, www.bankri.com.

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