In addition to their yearly training before students arrive on campus in the fall, the University’s residential college advisers learned they would be participating in another University program this year — a credit card initiative. Rather than dealing with reimbursements for study breaks or keeping track of University cash advances, each RCA has been given a new University-issued Bank of America credit card by the Office of Finance and Treasury.
Previously, RCAs received a cash advance from the Office of Finance and Treasury deposited to their personal bank account. Throughout the year, each RCA then kept a record of his or her purchases, submitting receipts to the appropriate college office. Receipts were then generally reviewed at the end of the semester.
Including RCAs in the University’s credit card program is part of a plan to move away from cash advance systems, according to Suzanne Bellan, the associate director of financial services at the Office of Finance and Treasury.
“In general, we’re thinking about ways that we can have more effective processes for people on campus, including RCAs and other people that engage in buying and paying for University activities,” Bellan said.
RCAs will now make purchases using University credit cards in their own names. Purchases are logged in the University’s online “Works” system, where RCAs record a description or justification for the purchase. College office staff then review that information and can contact the purchaser with any questions or follow-up. The federal tax ID number is printed on the card as well, which indicates the University’s tax-exempt status and ensures that purchases made with the card will not be assessed sales tax.
While there have not been any problems in the past, Bellan noted that one benefit of the program is decreasing the potential for fraud or program abuse.
“Purchases are instantly transmitted electronically. This approves visibility into those transactions and allows a more timely review than waiting until the end of the semester,” she explained.
Whitman College piloted the RCA credit card program last year, which Director of Student Life Devon Moore called very successful. Half of the current Whitman RCAs used the cards in last year’s pilot program and have given positive feedback.
“The RCAs have a lot of responsibilities, and budget and finance is one of them,” Moore said. She also noted that it could be difficult for RCAs to keep separate accounts of University and personal funds. “This program makes it easier in that regard and lets RCAs focus more on community building.”
Moore also noted that students are better protected from fraud, with security measures in place should the card be lost or stolen.
RCAs said that they were supportive of the new cards, emphasizing the convenience of making purchases. Wilson College RCA Hannah Rosenthal ’15 said the card makes purchasing simple. Rosenthal compared her experience using the credit card to making purchases for the Center for Jewish Life, which she then needed to submit for reimbursement.
“The program is a very good idea and easier than dealing with cash,” Rosenthal said. “Reimbursements for the CJL were a bit of a pain.”