Questions arise over Higher One policies

Oswego State students are being charged for not using a college promoted service. Students who have stopped using their Higher One debit card are being charged $19 each month in fees.

According to an e-mail from Higher One, "When there is no activity on an account for a period of 9 consecutive months, a Abandoned Account Fee of up to $19 is charged each month until the account becomes active or the balance reaches zero."

Higher One said that once an account balance is depleted by the inactivity fee the account is closed.

All students enrolled at Oswego State are given a Higher One debit card, said Peg Lloyd, director of student accounts. She explained that while student accounts assists students with establishing their Higher One account and activating their debit card, once the accounts are opened, students must deal directly with Higher One.

Students fortunate enough to merit refunds from the school have the option of having those refunds sent directly to their Higher One account. The trouble is that students usually sign on to the plan early in their college career, and refunds are distributed much later, leaving plenty of time for students to forget about their Higher One accounts.

"About 65 percent of students receive their checks on their Higher One card, 20 percent have it direct deposited and 15 percent receive paper checks," Lloyd said. "We chose Higher One because we wanted to get out of doing direct refunds; it wasn’t very helpful from a customer service point of view."

Other schools are choosing Higher One too. The company currently offers refund accounts and debit cards to 347 campuses in 40 states.

But other SUNY schools haven’t switched to Higher One, or a comparable system. Schools like SUNY Geneseo and SUNY Binghamton choose to deal with the logistics and customer service needs of paper checks. Those schools offer student refunds through their student accounts offices, where students must show a college I.D. card to obtain their check.

However, a representative from Geneseo said that once a student receives their refund check, there is no place on campus to cash it. Higher One accounts allow immediate access to refunds through the debit card given to students.

Oswego State sophomore Lindsay Bitmead said she wasn’t worried about the inactivity charge on her Higher One account.

"I do use mine when there is refund money on it, and if not, I pretend it doesn’t exist," Bitmead said.

Another sophomore, Sharon Baker finds the Higher One system useful. She used it to buy gas and go to Wal-Mart, she said.

But some choose to opt out of the Higher One plan altogether.

"I don’t use it," said sophomore Jacob Vanetten. "I have a real debit card."