Students, parents react to end of Diamond Dollars program

Some parents are frustrated with the decision, while many students and vendors failed to see the program’s purpose.

The Diamond Dollars program is set to end after Spring 2024, citing declining participation and the availability of alternative payment methods. | JACK LARSON / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Sophie Cloutier was “happy” when she heard Temple is discontinuing its Diamond Dollars program. As a freshman, Cloutier was unable to avoid purchasing Diamond Dollars as a part of her meal plan, which she felt was unfair.

“I remember paying the bills for a semester and I was like, ‘I don’t want $50, I’d rather just have $50 in general,’” said Cloutier, a sophomore chemistry major. “So I’m happy that people don’t have to go pay extra or they’re forced to pay extra.”

On Jan. 24, Temple announced its plans to discontinue the Diamond Dollars program at the end of the Spring 2024 semester. Diamond Dollars have been in effect since 1999 and allow students and their families to load money into an account to be used at participating vendors. Some parents are frustrated with the decision, while many students and vendors failed to see the program’s purpose in the first place.

Brendan McElroy, a senior criminal justice major, used Diamond Dollars as an underclassman. Once he learned they had a one-to-one cash conversion rate, he stopped using the program. 

His only concern after hearing the program was ending was for students who currently held money in Diamond Dollars accounts. 

“I hope that whoever actually invested in Diamond Dollars, they get reimbursed,” McElroy said. “Otherwise, I don’t really see it as a real issue.”

After the program dissolves on May 15, any funds in Diamond Dollars accounts will be refunded to the student via direct deposit, said Scott Brannan, director of the OwlCard Office and Diamond Dollars. 

The university opted to discontinue the program after noticing a decrease in participation throughout the past several years. With the rise of alternative payment methods that offer similar services as Diamond Dollars, like Apple Wallet and Google Pay, the university elected to officially make the move.

“We’ve heard from an increasing number of parents over the same period kind of wondering if there’s any added benefit to putting money into Diamond Dollars, why they were needing to put it in a separate bucket when they were already funding a debit account for a student or allowing them to have a credit card, whether there were discounts with the program or anything like that,” Brannan said.

The program was initiated shortly after the 12th Street Vendor Pad, or ‘The Wall,’ opened nearly 30 years ago. Many of the businesses on The Wall were cash-only, and Diamond Dollars were created to provide students and vendors with a cash alternative.

Vendors were required to purchase an additional point-of-sale terminal to participate in the program. Many vendors, especially campus food trucks, elected not to participate in the program because of this condition. 

When deciding to discontinue the program, the university consulted participating vendors. Diamond Dollars accounted for only about five percent of sales for vendors participating in the program since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the university’s website. 

“In just a preliminary discussion with many vendors on campus, there was no pushback about it,” Brannan said.

Some Temple parents, however, are less enthusiastic about the decision to discontinue the program. 

Lauren Nance, mother of Leah Nance, a junior music therapy major, used the program frequently and was frustrated at the lack of transparency in the decision-making process. 

“I’ve used [Diamond Dollars] since Leah began attending Temple and I’ve found that as a parent, and while she’s a young adult learning her way and navigating life, I found [Diamond Dollars] to be a great way to support her in budgeting and being strategic about how she spends money,” Nance said.

Nance feels the university should’ve more heavily considered student and parent opinions when making the decision, she said. 

In the future, Nance plans to financially support her daughter through traditional debit options but hopes the university will reconsider the program’s place at Temple.

“We’re very fortunate that our Owl is a pretty responsible young lady, and so with that, we’ll definitely need to fund her food budget more, for her to be able to do grab-and-go on a cash basis rather than use Diamond Dollars,” Nance said. “We’ll have to make that adjustment, fortunately, we can trust her decision-making in making certain that those funds do go toward their intended purpose, but from what I understand from her, it’s just really inconvenient for her to not have that choice.”

The university has no plans to implement a program replacing Diamond Dollars. 

“We’re very proud of what we did and accomplished through those years, but think the timing is right for the program to be retired,” Brannan said.

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