Descriptive Title of Proposal: York University Bookstore- "Scholar Dollars"
Year Submitted 2014
Awarded Honourable Mention (Open Category)
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name Title
Steven Glassman
Name of Institution York University
Office Address 4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
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Telephone: 416-736-2100x33018
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Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Richard Francki
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) AVP, Campus Services & Business Operations
Office Address 4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J I P3
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Telephone: 416-736-2100 x55789
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York University introduced its one-card "YU-card" in January, 2006. The system includes the meal plan system, replaced the library card, and can be used at vending machines, and residence laundry machines. The unit is a self-funding ancillary, part of Campus Services and Business Operations (CSBO), and derives revenues from card production, card replacement, and through a percentage of each purchase. Revenues have not grown significantly as originally planned, and it was felt that incentives would draw more transactions to the YU-card. The campus bookstore had long felt that a loyalty program would improve its competitiveness, but had technical issues which made it difficult to introduce a standalone loyalty program. In the summer of 2012, the Bookstore introduced its loyalty I rewards program utilizing the YU-card infrastructure. "Scholar Dollars" are accumulated on every purchase with a YU-card. The flex dollar account separate from meal plan funds- are accepted for any purchase. The Scholar Dollars are kept separately from meal plan and flex dollars and can only be redeemed at the campus bookstore. The administration of Scholar Dollars- adding rewards to a separate account-is administered internally using automated tools. The reward rate is generous, at 5%, which is equivalent to the best programs retailers offer. The Bookstore and YU-card groups worked together with one of its agencies to provide graphic treatments for web sites, pamphlets, and signage around the campus. Although awareness is a primary issue, initial feedback was positive from discussions with students and parents. The ease of use the fact that YU-card holders do not have to enroll separately- adds to the program success. Similarly, there is no extra time required at the cash registers, no extra swipes, no loyalty cards to fish out of wallets. In December of 2012, the YU-card expanded to include a range of off-campus eateries. These nearby restaurants are offering discounts with the use of the YU-card, and 5% of the value of orders placed with Pizza Pizza's Ontario call centre for delivery is rewarded back to the student, in Scholar Dollars. The program achieved its initial goals, and is easily replicated at other institutions.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

This project is independent from banking systems. Scholar dollar awarding and redemption is managed internally from settlement data. This makes it simple to implement, without involving any new vendors or costs. Other institutions with campus card programs could implement a similar program using York's methodologies, even if they use a different campus card system. The programming effort was minimal, as it took a programmer one day to introduce the routine that accumulates Scholar Dollars.

Quality Impact

It is well known that the price of textbooks is high, but as list prices are set by US and Canadian publishers, it is important for the institution to provide some relief to students, and for its campus bookstore to be competitively priced. Although it is simple to start earning Scholar Dollars, awareness and participation is still a challenge. The target group is incoming first year students who are overwhelmed with orientation information. As participation, as measured by use of the YU-card has more than doubled, it is felt that the "Swipe, Save, Sweet" messaging is successful. Since the launch of the program, over $40,000 in Scholar Dollars have been awarded, providing very tangible savings and benefits for students.

Productivity Impact

Transactions using the YU-card increased by 2.7 fold in the September 2012 launch, which was the back to school "rush" period. The YU-card continues to slowly gain market share at the Bookstore. In 2013, the first full calendar year since introduction, the YU-card share of all cards transacted was almost 5%. The baseline use of the YU-card, calendar year 2011, was under 2%. The dollars spent through the YU-card have increased by over $450,000. This migration is modest, but does contribute to the University financially. As transaction fees move from Visa, Mastercard, Amex and debit cards to York's bank, York benefits. Increased use of the YU-card for Bookstore-related purchases and the ability to earn Scholar Dollars from other merchants also provides a "halo effect" that encourages student use of the YU-card more broadly.


Loyalty programs are a big business for external vendors- and the vendors' share of revenues cuts into the size of the rewards available for students. This program is very simply managed from within existing infrastructure- a routine was introduced to assign rewards to student accounts based on bookstore transactions. The routine was amended to add rewards for use of external restaurants. No banking or other agencies are needed or involved. Reporting and auditing of Scholar Dollar balances is done through existing systems and financial processes.