Ellen Perlman was a GOVERNING staff writer and technology columnist.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
About $2,500 worth of checks was bouncing each semester before the high school in Grossmont, California, adopted a no-check policy. But that doesn't mean that students have to come to school with wads of cash for their books, cheerleader uniforms, prom tickets and class rings. Instead, they can take plastic to an automatic teller machine and get the cash they need--right at school.
"It's not the job of the school system to run down people who write bad checks," says Jeff Meredith, director of student activities. "We don't have a collections department." So he decided an ATM would be a great convenience for students.
Meredith went to his local 7-Eleven and got a phone number for the ATM company that had placed a machine there. The school then paid $10,000 for one of its own, which has been operating since the beginning of the 2003 school year. There is a fee of $1.50 per transaction, $1.25 of which goes to the school. The other 25 cents covers the cost of the transmission line. The cash is removed and the machine is out of service when the school is closed.
Several other high schools in California, Oregon and Washington also have brought cash-dispensing machines onto their campuses. Some critics worried about incidents of theft and vandalism, but so far the problem has not materialized.
At Grossmont, a "small minority" of people felt that an ATM didn't belong on campus. Now that it's in place, however, many parents and teachers are also taking advantage of it. Meredith expects that the school will cover its investment in five to seven years. For those parents who adamantly oppose their children bringing a bank or debit card to school, money orders are still accepted for the fees the school charges.
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