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Higher One: 'No hidden agenda'

By John Binder
On December 10, 2013

  • Laura Williams and Jay Driggers show off the Southland Conference Trophy while at the Student Appreciation Pep Rally inside the War Memorial Student Union. Megan Ferrando

After scrutiny from students regarding fees associated with Higher One, which will eventually manage the university's financial aid refunds, payroll services and the "My Lion Card," a spokesperson for Higher One is saying the company has no hidden agenda to burden students with fees.
Higher One Public Relations Coordinator Lauren P. Perry said Higher One plainly states potential fees for students linked to the program before students select to use the "My Lion Card."
"Higher One has always been transparent and takes an educational approach when it comes to the disclosure of fees," said Perry.  "To go a step further on its fee schedule, Higher One provides an explanation of the potential charges and instructions on how a student can avoid incurring them in the future. There is no hidden agenda, and there are no hidden fees: before opening an account with Higher One, it is mandatory that students acknowledge and accept the fee schedule."
The fees in question were most recently pointed out by former Student Government Association President Branden Summers who said Higher One's fees disclosure to students "requires some searching."
As confirmed by SGA Senator Aaron Johnson, students who use the "My Lion Card" will be charged 50 cents for every purchase they make if they swipe the card as debit. The fee can only be avoided by swiping the card as credit.
Furthermore, there is the $2.50 withdrawal fee for using non-Higher One Automated Teller Machines plus that particular ATMs withdrawal fee. Also, if students over withdraw from their account, they will be charged $29, and if a student loses their "My Lion Card," they will pay a fine of roughly $20 to replace it.
Perry said, though, that students will never be charged to receive refunds and said students did not even have to choose the card if they did not want to.
"If a student chooses an optional Higher One checking account, the card will then act as a Debit MasterCard linked to that account," said Perry.  "Students will never be charged to receive their financial aid refund money no matter which option they choose, and no student is required to have a Higher One checking account."
Summers, nonetheless, previously said that though Higher One claims the program is merely adding choices for students, it ultimately indirectly forces students into using a particular financial institution.
Potential "My Lion Card" fees can be avoided altogether if students decide not to choose the debit card option. However, the second option of using direct deposit may be a bit more complicated and will not be as fast.
In order for students to set up the direct deposit option, students must complete direct deposit information online, print it out and either mail the information or fax it to Higher One's central office in New Haven, Ct. From there, students will wait for an estimated 2-3 business days for the money to be deposited.
Students can also decide to do nothing with the "My Lion Card" and simply wait for a possible refund check to come in the mail.
"If a student does nothing, they will receive a paper check within 21 days to the primary address they have on file with the school," said Perry.  "This is a standard set by the Department of Education.  There are no fees associated with neglecting to select a refund preference or with selecting an option different from a Higher One checking account."
Perry said students do not have to be worried about sending in banking information to Higher One because the company is bound by federal law and therefore cannot disperse private information.
"Higher One never sells or shares personal information with any third-party providers or servicers," said Perry.  "In doing so, Higher One helps schools comply with standards set by the Department of Education in terms of regulations on debit cards and electronic disbursement of financial aid refunds.  Additionally, Higher One's secure method of electronic disbursement helps schools combat financial aid fraud."
The university, according to Perry, entered into a contract with Higher One by paying an annual subscription fee. It is estimated that the university will save funds by eliminating printing, envelopes and postage costs.
Higher One does not pay schools to enter into contracts or provide its services on campus, according to Perry.
 


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