The students at the University of Missouri in Columbia have reached their limits.
University administrators have decided to restrict students’ personal purchases using their university accounts. The restrictions go into effect Aug.1
At the university, students can use their Mizzou TigerCard ID to make what’s called a “student charge” to pay for various items or services.
They can use their student charge at, among other locations, the Mizzou Store, at Campus Dining Services and at the MizzouRec, the campus recreation center and gym. They can buy new clothes from the Mizzou Store, grab some sushi from the Student Center or get a massage in the MizzouRec spa.
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The university has found, however, that the student charge has allowed too many students to spend money they didn’t have and go into debt.
If the balance of a student charge is not paid on time, a hold can be placed on a student’s account. That can eventually lead to a student being unable to re-enroll the following semester. The university says that financial problems are a big reason students who are academically eligible don’t return to Mizzou.
The student charges are capped at $1,250 per student per semester, and that cap will remain. The main effect of the new limit will be to restrict what students can buy. They will no longer be able to use their student charge payments for non-educational items.
The Mizzou Store will restrict purchases to textbooks and academic materials. Students will be unable to charge clothing, food, cosmetics or personal hygiene items to their accounts.
Students can no longer student charge services at the MizzouRec or use that form of payment at Campus Dining Services locations.
“Goodbye to the days I would student charge spray tans, food and clothes, meanwhile, having my mom think it was ‘books.’ Thanks, @Mizzou,” junior Madison Pfleiderer wrote on Twitter.
The Missouri Students Association Senate issued a Twitter poll June 22 asking students if they supported the decision to limit the student charge. With 499 participants, 80 percent voted no.
“Initially I was bummed out, kind of at the fact that there was no more of me just going to the Student Center and grabbing a smoothie or something, but although it was a bummer for me, I knew it was kind of what Mizzou needed,” said Annie Merrill, a junior at the university.
“I think that they could have maybe taken a different approach to it, maybe set better limits. I know that my parents set limits for me personally, but there was never a way for Mizzou to set limits with certain people.”
Jim Spain, the university’s vice provost of undergraduate studies, said that after analyzing data on student debt and the excessive use of student charge, this is the university’s way to help combat debt and encourage students to properly manage their finances.
“This effort is all directed toward helping support students in their pursuit of making good progress in completing their academic program and successfully graduating from MU,” Spain said. “This is not intended to be punitive, and that’s why making sure that students have other options and being able to cover other expenses associated with being a student at MU are still in place.”
The university will be promoting its other payment form, E.Z. Charge, which is a prepaid option applied to an account that students can access with their Mizzou TigerCard ID. Unlike student charge, students cannot exceed a selected balance.
Student charge is not a form of payment for other colleges in the region. Instead they use prepaid options similar to E.Z. Charge, like the University of Kansas’ Beak ‘Em Bucks and Kansas State University’s Cat Cash.
Campus Dining Services, the MizzouRec and the Mizzou Store are the only locations that have placed restrictions on student charge beginning Aug. 1.
But a working group of Mizzou administrators and staff along with a Mizzou student representative in the upcoming school year will be sifting through 150 other campus locations to eliminate purchases that are not academic related.
“Ultimately, why is Mizzou here? To provide us with education,” Missouri Students Association president Nathan Willett said. “Anything that doesn’t really add to that educational value, you know, that’s where they’re coming from. “
The university will promote its free resources for those who used student charge but won’t be able to cover certain costs once the restrictions on purchases begin. For example, Tiger Pantry provides free food for students and faculty.
The university is also encouraging faculty to use resources in the public domain to create free materials so students won’t necessarily have to purchase books for every class.
Christian Basi, director of the university’s news bureau, said the university is trying to ease student finances so they can get off to a good start once they graduate.
“A student who is not burdened with debt contributes more to the economy and is likely to be less stressed than those who do,” he said.
While the university is trying help students financially, it’s being forced to make some budget cuts themselves. The Mizzou Store is a big attraction for generating revenue for the school, and the restrictions could erode profits.
“This is not in response to our budget situation. This is in response to doing the very best we can for our students,” Spain said. “In some ways, it might very well diminish the income to the Mizzou Store, but if that allows us to help students be more successful at Mizzou, that’s an expense we are willing to incur.”