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 SRU opens 'Rock Dollar' purchasing power to local merchants 



July 13, 2007
Contact: K.E. Schwab


SRU opens 'Rock Dollar' purchasing power to local merchants 


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Business owners throughout the region are being offered the chance to join a new high-tech, electronic debit card ID system being implemented by Slippery Rock University and Heartland Payment Systems linked to more than $3.5 million in student buying power.

           The new program, the first of its kind at any college, was unveiled to some 15 local merchants this week at two Slippery Rock Business Association-hosted meetings. SRU previously announced implementation of its new high-tech ID card system that gives students direct access to their "Rock Dollar" accounts both on campus and at off-campus merchants who join the program. 

           Previously, Rock Dollars were only allowed for on-campus purchases. However, the new technology being provided through Heartland, allows students to use their new ID cards or contactless tag at any merchant signed up with Heartland. 

           Later this summer, all SRU students, faculty and staff will be issued a new, official Rock ID card and a separate contactless token designed to be used with their mobile phone. On campus, the card or chip will be read by scanners in dining halls, for residence hall admittance, for laundry services in residence halls, at vending machines and photocopying machines across campus and for campus library services. 

           "Our primary objective is to keep Slippery Rock University at the leading edge of technology, as well as help students understand the importance of financial responsibility and the importance of technology security," said Robert Smith, SRU president. He along with Heartland executives met with local business leaders to introduce the program and encourage their participation.

           "The emphasis is clearly on providing service to students," Smith said.

           Barry Welsch, director at Heartland, a 1973 SRU graduate and member of the Slippery Rock University Foundation, Inc., explained the program, noting all SRU students have "Rock Dollar" accounts into which they, or their parents, deposit funds. Rock Dollar accounts handle more than $3.5 million annually, he said. 

           "Until now, Rock Dollars could only be used on campus, primarily at the bookstore, for laundry and dining service-related purchases. Now, the card, which is very similar to a standard debit card requiring funds to be deposited before purchases can be made, will be imbedded with a technology chip opening its use to any merchant signing up through the Heartland Payment Systems program."

            Merchants interested in joining, sign up then purchase an appropriate card scanner. The scanner also handles transactions from all other major credit card providers. Purchases are automatically deducted from the student's Rock Dollar account and deposited with the merchant as part of their daily transactions.

          Students making purchases with the new card or the contactless chip will be required to entire a  PIN - personal identification number − as part of the transaction and will receive a standard purchase receipt. The contactless chip must be held within 3 inches of the reader, a security measure that keeps account numbers from being picked off by passersby. Faculty and staff will be permitted to make deposits to personal Rock Dollar accounts and make purchases like students. Lost or stolen cards may be reported by phone or through the Internet on a round-the-clock basis with an instantaneous lock placed on the account.

           Welsch said plans are under way to implement a "rewards" program similar to that offered by major credit card providers. The rewards program would allow Rock Dollar users to receive a rebate directly to their account or have it sent to a select list of charities. The list will include a scholarship fund at SRU.

           "This new card, or its tag, will serve as an SRU identification card as well as a debit card. Those who put money into the account will be able to use it for campus purchases, withdrawal of funds at designated automated teller machines or to purchase goods and services from merchants displaying the "Rock Dollars" logo," said Smith. Following a student's graduation, the card will remain active as a way of continuing the graduate's direct connection to campus, or the graduate may withdraw any funds remaining in the account.

          Heartland Payment Systems (NYSE: HPY) is a leading provider of credit/debit/prepaid card processing, payroll and payment services. The Butler-based company was selected by SRU through a request for services contract. The company already handles credit card payments for a number of universities across the U.S. and hopes to expand its latest technology push to a number of western Pennsylvania campuses as a way to improve convenience to students.

           Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.




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