In the United
States, there is a growing movement on college campuses to increase student
involvement in their communities, particularly through what is known as
“service-learning” in which students participate in community service activities
organized by local community groups. This note will examine a novel proposal
that is being created by UMKC’s Center for Full Employment and Price Stability
that would add a community service component to our undergraduate and graduate
We propose that UMKC adopt
a simple and flexible approach to a service learning requirement. One option
would be to simply require a fixed quantity of hours per semester for each
student as a condition for graduation. A record-keeping system would be created
so that the university could determine that each student had met her
requirement. This would entail some coordination between local service providers
who would keep track of each student’s hours and the university office
designated to keep records of community service hours. Complications might arise
as students migrated from one service provider to another, as service providers
change personnel, and so on.
have chosen, instead, to design a system that is essentially a “monetary”
system. We have created paper notes, dubbed “buckaroos” (after the UMKC mascot,
a kangaroo), with the inscription “this note represents one hour of community
service by a UMKC student”, and denominated as “one roo hour”. Each student
would have a community service “tax” of, say, 25 buckaroos (B25) per semester,
payable in buckaroo notes. The record keeping would be quite simple. Each
student would be required to pay B25 to the UMKC “Treasury” each semester.
Approved community service providers (state and local government offices,
university offices, public school districts, and not-for-profit agencies) would
be provided with buckaroos to “hire” student workers, so long as basic health,
safety, and liability standards were met. The providers could then use their
buckaroos to pay students for hours of service. The Treasury would only need to
ensure that the providers were, indeed, paying one buckaroo per hour of student
labor—there would be no need to keep track of the names of students who worked
for each provider. There would be no necessary limit to the number of buckaroos
paid out during any semester. The number supplied to any provider would be
limited only by the provider’s needs for labor and by its ability to attract
student workers, unless the university found it desirable to place quantitative
limits on some providers in order to promote diversity of efforts. When students
pay their B25 tax, they return these buckaroos to the UMKC Treasury.
There are many
advantages to this system. Students are free to choose from among a wide-array
of providers, and are free to switch “jobs” as frequently as desired.
Record-keeping by both providers and UMKC is made very simple—providers simply
pay a buckaroo for each hour of labor provided, and UMKC collects B25 per
student per semester. Students are able to “hoard” buckaroos for future use,
thus, can work extra hours in one semester in anticipation of a heavy course
load in a following semester. Note also that students might be allowed to lend,
borrow, buy, or sell buckaroos as desired. We expect that “buckaroos” may become
something like a “local currency” used on- and off-campus. At some point in the
future, UMKC might allow a portion of tuition to be “paid” with buckaroos (just
as some US universities are now allowing waivers for a portion of tuition if
students participate in specified community activities). We believe that this
would promote student involvement in our local communities, to the benefit of
UMKC-community relations while also benefiting the communities and the students.
In addition, our unique approach will provide useful information to national
(and international) researchers concerning the operation of a monetary system—in
particular, for our understanding of the causes of unemployment and inflation.
Further information on the importance of this program for developing an
understanding of monetary systems is available from the Center for Full
Employment and Price Stability.