Wellington College is a private, co-ed boarding and day school in southeast England. It was founded by Queen Victoria and Prime Minister Lord Edward Stanley in 1859. Educating teenagers 14 to 18 years of age, the college has helped shape the lives of notable Brits in the fields of architecture, literature, entertainment, journalism, sports and religion.
According to U.K.-based prepaid card issuer and program manager White Eagle PLC, Wellington is now the first private secondary school in Britain to begin transitioning the campus environment from paper-based to electronic payments. White Eagle is issuing Wellington parents and students the Freedom Eagle Cash Card, a reloadable, MasterCard Worldwide-branded, chip and PIN prepaid card for on- and off-campus purchases.
Warren Hardy, founder and Chief Executive Officer at White Eagle, said POS terminals have been installed in most of the retail outlets on the school grounds, such as the bookstore and cafeteria. The college's administrative offices have also been set up with a terminal to accept payments. This is all in advance of the Michaelmas (fall) term, which begins in September 2009, when the program goes live.
Hardy believes the main benefits of the program are threefold:
The traditional method that enabled parents to pay for their childrens' boarding school expenses was inefficient and time consuming. According to White Eagle, parents sent multiple checks to Wellington's housemasters (H/Ms) at the beginning of each school term. Parents wrote checks to cover their childrens' general spending needs, checks to pay for uniforms and checks for school trips.
The H/Ms, who manage the school dormitories relayed the checks to the school administration, which deposited the funds into a bank account and doled out cash to the H/Ms. Then, on a routine basis, the H/Ms disbursed payments to individual students based on how much money their parents had given them to spend at the beginning of the term.
But that calculation was not exact. Over the course of the term, the H/Ms were responsible for keeping running tabs on how much money each child under their care had spent. At the end of the term, the H/Ms reconciled the books, invariably revealing that some children had spent more than their parents had allotted for them, sometimes by over 100 British pounds, with no clarity afforded parents as to how or where that money went.
The parents - who already pay up to 9,000 British pounds on school fees each term - would then be required to make up the difference. But White Eagle believes its cash card program will eliminate all that.
Parents are given primary cards with which to manage their children's accounts, loading and reloading funds via Web site (www.freedom4schools.co.uk) or mobile phone. Parents can set daily spending caps and monitor their children's transactions in real time. "This kind of visibility should discourage students from making unsuitable purchases," Hardy said.
Since the card is open-loop and network-branded, it can be used online and off campus. But the card is restricted to use at select retailers, eliminating purchases at gaming and adult-oriented sites, for example. Parents and students can see their balances online or via text messages on mobile phones.
As Hardy related, the main feature of the system is that students can spend only as much as their parents give them. "There was a situation where a child - 16 - was in London having spent all the balance on the card and had no money to get a train back to school, the parent was able to instantly SMS [simple message service] funds, allowing the child to buy a train ticket and complete their journey," he said.
As a monarch who had an entire era in Western civilization named after her, Queen Victoria calls to mind notions of tradition and adherence to time-honored mores and values. But Hardy believes the Queen would have approved of Wellington's break with tradition. With nine children of her own, she would have no doubt found the Freedom Eagle Cash Card "very useful," he said.
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