Everybody’s business

Dude, where’s my card?
It’s like a debit card, for your food. And Chico State is the first place they’re trying to market it.

College Meal Card co-founders Ryan McGowan and Nick Wigston have about a dozen restaurants on board and about as many people signed up after just a couple of weeks of promotion and setting up a booth at the Thursday Night Farmers’ Market.

McGowan said the Boulder, Colo.-based company chose Chico because it has “a decent student body size and the campus is really close to downtown.”

Students won’t save money every time they use the card (in fact, it costs $25 to start it), but there will be special, money-saving deals for card users, McGowan said. And even though merchants pay a surcharge for each transaction, they more than make up for it in increased business and the advertising that being listed on brochures and www.collegemealcard.com affords the restaurants, he said.

The idea of a card that students can use to eat off-campus isn’t new. The National Association of Campus Card Users has a long list of member companies who broker deals in college towns.

In fact, in 2002, a company called Student Advantage tried to hook up with Chico State’s Wildcat Card, but the Associated Students balked, worried it would result in competition with A.S.-owned on-campus food services.

Dani Elliott, director of University Support Services, which administrates the Wildcat Card, said there have been talks with more than one company over the years and at one point the university was “fairly close” to implementing a deal. The school had reached an agreement with the A.S. that off-campus meals could only be purchased when A.S. Food Services outlets were closed, Elliott said. Now, the university is in talks with a Connecticut company called Higher One that would redo all campus cards to include a MasterCard logo and be accepted anywhere that accepts the credit card. “That one’s still kind of on the table,” Elliott said. (Higher One is being boycotted by students at some universities for reasons too complex to go into here; see: www.ess.pdx.edu/aspsu/idcard/)

A.S. President Thomas Whitcher said there hasn’t been much talk lately about cooperating with a card company, or how College Meal Card could affect the A.S.

“The pros and cons have always come up,” Whitcher said, adding that, “you can’t expect someone to eat at the same place for 15 solid weeks.”

McGowan said his company plans to approach the university as well, although it’s unclear how the A.S. will react to this pronouncement on the Web site: “Say goodbye to bland dining hall food and start eating what you really want.”

House party
There’s just a few days left to have an opportunity to buy the house Habitat for Humanity built.

To have their names placed in a random drawing for the opportunity to purchase the house for $229,500, potential buyers must be qualified or nearly qualified for a home loan and have attended a city workshop, one of which is being held this Saturday, Aug. 27.

That same day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. is an open house at the 5 Skywalker Court, and the drawing will be held Aug. 28.

It’s rare for Habitat to sell a house at market value, but this will allow the charity, in a joint venture with the city, to build 10 to 12 new houses for low-income families, said Lechia Dickinson, director of development and volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Butte County.