The SGA Student Affairs Committee is working on a project that would allow University of Maryland students to use Terrapin Express or a similar university debit account at participating businesses in College Park.

The SGA has noticed some parents with undergraduate students at this university are reluctant to give their children access to a debit or credit card, but are more willing to use Terrapin Express, said A.J. Pruitt, the vice president of student affairs in the SGA.

“We’ve had a successful program with students being able to use their ID to pay at locations in Stamp,” Pruitt said. “Why can’t we continue that off campus?”

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After surveying students a few years ago about their main sources of food and what they wish could be expanded within Dining Services, the SGA found that students living on the campus felt restricted to dining halls and other on-campus locations, Pruitt said.

If implemented, the project would give students the opportunity to use Terrapin Express or a different type of university debit account to go out for a meal in College Park, Pruitt said.

“This program is not meant to replace or overhaul Dining Services,” Pruitt said. “We would work in partnership with them to give students this opportunity.”

The Student Affairs Committee is emailing locally-owned businesses this week, including Bagel Place and Bread N Greens, to gauge their interest in working with the SGA on this project, Pruitt said. The committee will also visit local businesses in person over the next couple of weeks, he added.

Bagel Place manager Sean McQuiston said students have asked in the past if they can use their meal plan at the restaurant.

“[The project] sounds like something we can talk to them about,” McQuiston said. “It would benefit both of us and we’re always looking to expand customer base.”

The committee also plans to reach out to corporately-owned businesses like Chipotle and Noodles & Company, Pruitt said. They are hoping to set up conversations with Uber officials about allowing students at this university to pay for the ride-sharing application using their student accounts, he added.

The committee is analyzing schools that have partnerships with Uber — such as the University of Louisville and Loyola University Maryland — to learn more about their systems, Pruitt said. Other universities, like the University of Alabama, have served as both a model and resource for this project, Pruitt said.

Alexis Ojeda-Brown, a junior English major, thinks this initiative would be helpful for students who rely on their parents or other family members for spending money.

“The fact that family members could add to your account isn’t something I thought about,” Ojeda-Brown said. “If family members go online and add the amount you don’t really have to worry about it, whereas with your credit card you can’t really do that.”

Although College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said this is the first he’d heard about the project, he said allowing students to use their student accounts at local restaurants could be beneficial for the city.

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“It would allow students more flexibility in terms of where they could spend money and allow them to support local businesses in College Park,” Wojahn said.

Student Affairs Committee members met with Ken Ulman, chief strategy officer for economic development for the university’s College Park Foundation, in February to discuss ideas about how to best implement this program, said Sam O’Neil, assistant chief strategy officer at this university. But Ulman does not feel prepared to comment on the initiative at this time, O’Neil said.

Pruitt has been committed to this idea since his campaign for the student affairs vice president position last spring, he said. He hopes to have a pilot program off the ground in some locations by spring 2018, he added.