USUAA revamps Student Discount Program

A new and improved Student Discount Program is tentatively scheduled to debut in the spring 2005 semester. The program will offer discounts for UAA students at participating local businesses.

USUAA vice president Michael Blanton has worked with USUAA senator Kortney Hintsala this semester to reinvent the formerly unsuccessful Student Discount Program.

The program is a service provided to UAA’s constituency—all students enrolled in at least three credits—rather than a fundraising tool, as it is used among other universities’ student government organizations in the nation. Students can recoup a portion of their student government fee by saving money on various purchases at businesses participating in the program, Blanton said.

“We’re pretty much looking at anything students might use,” Blanton said.

The former program solicited participation from all businesses listed by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, many of which students would rarely or never use, so Blanton said he considered his own interests as a student and the interests of his constituents when considering businesses.

Most of the businesses that have responded offer percentage discounts on the total purchase or offer a buy-one-get-one-free policy. The former program offered similar discounts, but were meager and usually not utilized, Blanton said.

Blanton said the majority of the discounts solicited for the new program are so generous that students would utilize the program’s opportunities multiple times during the year.

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Blanton and Hintsala’s focus for the program is its applicability to student needs, sturdiness and the efficiency of its distribution—three areas Blanton noted the former program lacked. The old program’s cards were printed on foldable paper and were distributed at USUAA information tables and sessions, but Blanton and Hintsala to print the new credit-card sized cards on laminated cardstock through General Support Services and have discussed distributing the cards through the registration department’s mailing system.

The program itself is funded by unused student fees from previous semesters that have been pooled into USUAA’s contingency account, the appropriate use of which has been a controversial subject among several of USUAA’s recent assembly bills.

“I think there might be a better use of student funds,” Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho medical education program student Aaron Kusano said.

Blanton said the preliminary list of 45-50 businesses that may sponsor the program are generally national or multi-national companies and corporations but some local businesses are included. These businesses generally operate in multiple locations across Anchorage so students with or without transportation can still use the card. Many of the possible food vendors are located behind Providence Hospital and are accessible to on-campus students, Blanton said.

Human services major Bob Diaz said he would like to see mostly large companies participating in the program because they offer multiple locations around the city.

Graduate student Stephanie Birdsall wants to see some breaks at on-campus businesses.

“I spend a lot of money on coffee on-campus and it would be nice to get a discount,” Birdsall said.

Possible businesses include McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Cold Stone Creamery, Barnes & Noble and Border’s Books. Blanton also considered local businesses such as Center Bowl, Tastee Freez, Orso’s and the Glacier Brewhouse all with the intent to acquire businesses that would have the greatest benefit for students.

“I think (the program) is a good idea if it’s stores people would go to on a regular basis,” elementary education major Rhiana Gay said.

Gay said she might use the card two to three times per week, if the right businesses participate. Diaz said he would prefer to see entertainment, food and copying or office service businesses participating and he would use it at least once a week.

The recently approved USUAA Assembly Bill 05-05 appropriating $1,500 from the USUAA contingency fund covers the printing and distribution costs of the card.

Blanton said there will be no outsourcing costs in producing the cards. Layout, printing and distribution labor costs of the program will be handled by USUAA. Sen. Jonathan Wilcox volunteered to design the graphics on the cards.

“We’re doing everything,” Blanton said.