By Khadijah Khan
Instead of redeeming Aeroplan points for a coffee-maker or a gift card from the rewards catalogue, members can now use them to slay some student tuition fees.
The loyalty program, operated by Aimia Inc., is startup Higher Ed Points Inc.’s first partner
Higher Ed’s goal is to help post-secondary students lower their tuition debt by allowing them to use the points they have collected.
Currently, there are only three post-secondary institutions that are signed up to transfer points to tuition dollars: Toronto’s Centennial College, the University of New Brunswick and Kwantlen Polytechnic University in B.C.
However, Higher Ed Points is now in talks with several other schools, including Ryerson.
“I would love to get Ryerson involved. I’ve already contacted someone from the financial office,” said Suzanne Tyson, founder of Higher Ed Points Inc.
But the Ryerson financial services office said they cannot comment on current negotiations with Aeroplan.
Tyson wants to convince other loyalty programs to join Higher Ed to help build on her decade’s worth of experience, including a stint at Air Miles and Student Awards Inc., a company that matches students with scholarships they’re eligible for.
But Aeroplan was quickly interested.
“I pitched this in March of this year to Aeroplan and it took me about 10 years of past job experiences to string together this idea to make it happen,” Tyson said.
For Aeroplan members, the tuition redemption is available in increments of 35,000 miles, which translates to $250.
“With this initiative, what Aeroplan really wanted to (do) was broaden the access (to purchases with points and) provide members, especially younger ones who are students, another option to put their points towards,” said Francine Sternthal, director of project management at Aeroplan
By partnering with companies such as Sobeys, Rexall and Esso. Aeroplan is working to expand its image beyond a points-for-flights system and morph into more of an “everyday program,” according to Sternthal.
“More students are drawn to these stores,” Sternthal said.
“No better way to help students than to help them pay off tuition.”
But Monika Dalmacio, a third-year nursing student, said the idea is “stupid,” adding that she would go broke if she tried to collect enough points to pay off her tuition.
“I think I’ll stick to trying to find a job in my career and doing it the old-fashioned way,” she said.
Syed Ahmed, a second-year aerospace engineering student, disagreed.
“It would be a really good idea. It’s a positive thing. Students are drowning in debt. This is something that could start a small change,” Ahmed said.
Tyson knows it’s difficult to collect that many points, which is why she added a feature on Higher Ed’s website that asks parents, friends or family to donate points.
A program with tuition fees of $6,500 would take 910,000 points to pay, based on Higher Ed’s conversion rate.