SGA senator weighs in on Higher One payment programs
Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 10:10
Higher One, the private company that took over management of financial aid refunds last month, is poised to broaden its presence on campus into the realm of student worker payroll.
According to controller Nettie Burchfield, student payroll will continue to be disbursed by the university Payroll Office, but will transition to Higher One at a later date. Burchfield hopes that shifting refund and payroll services to a privately owned third party will smooth out operations in the Controller’s Office.
“Southeastern has partnered with Higher One to bring an additional refunding and banking option to our students,” she said. “This partnership allows us to disburse student refunds in a more efficient manner.”
Higher One understood from the beginning that making changes like this would be difficult without student support, so the company reached out to the Student Government Association. Aaron Johnson, a political science sophomore and SGA senator, currently serves as the only Higher One student representative.
Johnson explained that the shift from solely managing financial aid refunds to also dispersing student worker pay would come in time, but they are already trying out their new model with small test groups.
“Higher One has test groups set up on campus, some of the workers in the Controller’s Office have already chosen to try this model,” he said. “For the rest of the student workers, they’ve indicated that they’re looking to make the switch as early as the start of next year.”
According to Johnson, the university will no longer offer
direct deposit and paycheck services. Instead, Higher One will manage these services, but the procedure of switching is what Johnson fears will lead to mistrust between students and the company.
“You will have to re-set up direct deposit with Higher One,” he said. “A lot of student workers already have direct deposit set up with the school, but there’s no way of transferring information from the payroll office to the company. There’s a whole mess of legal issues that goes along with that, so it’s just easier for students to set it up individually with Higher One. This is where the trust issues come in.”
The university has to follow a strict list of rules and regulations when dispersing payroll, and Higher One follows even stricter regulations. Higher One adheres to guidelines set by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The FDIC is an independent agency created by Congress in 1933 and, as of 2013, began insuring depositor accounts in its member banks.
“Because Higher One is FDIC certified, they’re like a bank so they have even more rules to follow,” said Johnson. “They can’t release your information. You’re giving your information to an accredited source.”
Students automatically received a Higher One card in the mail, similar to a credit card. According to Johnson, the use of the card is not directly involved in payroll, but students should still hang onto it and activate their accounts.
“Don’t throw the card away,” he said. “You don’t have to use it if you don’t have refunds, but it’s smart to hang onto them in case you do get an unexpected refund.”
Receiving the card is only the first half of the process; the second is setting up an account at higherone.com. According to Johnson, using the card makes refunds almost immediately available to students.
“On disbursement days, the university wires that money to Higher One, and they put that money on your card the same day,” he said. “You also have the option of direct deposit or getting a check, but you have to set that up and it takes a little longer.”
Johnson also said that not setting up an account is also an option, but is not the best for students that do not like mail.
“After 21 days, the company has to cut you a check; that’s the law,” he said. “But you are going to get hammered with literature, mail saying ‘do this’ and even more cards. Nobody wants that.”
Johnson said that even after promotions and marketing by the company and the university, students still have a lot of questions about the new program.
“A lot of our students are still very, very confused about what Higher One is,” said Johnson. “I think they have a lot of trust issues with the company, we’re trying to break down that barrier, and I think the main reason for that mistrust is that they don’t really know what Higher One is.”
Johnson said that at first, like many students, he was skeptical of the program. However, after getting more involved and talking with the company, he can see clearly the benefits of switching student payments and refunds to a private third party.
“We didn’t exactly know in the beginning what Higher One was, and we had our own questions and concerns about it in SGA,” said Johnson. “But after learning more about it, I found out it’s going to save a lot of money, and it will service our students better. They’re going to get their money faster and have many more options as far as how they can use their money.”