Published Online: September 10, 2003
Published in Print: September 10, 2003, as Take Note

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Ready Cash

Automated-teller machines can be found almost everywhere—in malls, gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores. Now, they're cropping up in schools.

In San Diego County, Calif., administrators at Grossmont High School decided to install an ATM outside their finance office this year.

The Associated Student Body, which raised the money to pay for the $10,000 machine, requested the ATM as a way to produce revenue for student programs. But the school, which established a no-check policy in May after losing more than $2,000 in bounced checks from parents, says that the banking machine also provides a convenient way for students to pay for their registration fees and purchase prom tickets, yearbooks, and school supplies.

Nearly $4,200 in transactions was recorded on the first day of school. The ATM has logged more than 80 transactions, totaling $6,000, in its first two weeks. That adds up to good news for the student association, which receives $1.25 of the $1.50 service fee charged for transactions.

While the machine should pay for itself over the next two years, not everyone has greeted it with enthusiasm, according to Catherine Martin, the coordinator of public affairs for the 24,500-student Grossmont Union High School District.

"Some parents weren't ready for their children to have access to a cash machine at school," she said, "but older students find it a convenience not to have to go to gas stations for funds."

Other parents argued that because many adults have trouble managing their money, schools should not be introducing students to ATMs. But Ms. Martin says the school is not trying to give out credit cards or encourage rash spending. The machine, which accepts both debit and credit cards, has a $200-per-day withdrawal limit. Parents have to set up a bank account or a Visa "bucks" card with a predetermined limit for their children in order for them to use the machine.

The banking machine also isn't a likely to be a target for vandalism or a cause of violence, Ms. Martin said, because it's centrally located about four feet from the school's finance office.

The 2,369-student school has set up a security camera just in case, however, and allows the ATM to be used only during school hours. A school financial officer removes the cash from the machine daily and shuts it down when school is out.

—Marianne D. Hurst

Vol. 23, Issue 2, Page 3

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