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Rogue CC and Western Kentucky U Choose Higher One Service for Financial Aid Refunds

Rogue Community College in Oregon with 19,000 students and Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green with 20,000 students have both signed with Higher One to do financial aid refund disbursements to students digitally. Under the OneDisburse Refund Management service the participating institution sends Higher One a list of student names and refund amounts along with a wire for the total amount of the refunds. Higher One will then disburse the refunds to students.

Students receive a card in the mail with instructions on how to log on to a secure Web site, which asks them to confirm their primary e-mail and mailing addresses and select how they would like to handle their refund: as direct deposit to the OneAccount, by deposit into a checking account provided by Higher One, or by transfer to a bank account of their choice. The Kentucky university will also allow students to request issuance of a paper check. Students can sign up to be notified via text message to their mobile phone when they've received a refund. OneAccount holders can also check their account balances via text or phone.

"Currently at RCC, all refunds and financial aid disbursements are handled in-house by college staff. Students can receive their refunds and disbursements only by a paper check mailed to the address on file," said Lisa Stanton, director of Budget and Finance at Rogue. "Bad addresses, late and lost checks are common, and the mere presence of a paper check introduces opportunities for fraud."

The college issued a request for proposals in early July 2009 for commerce management services and chose Higher One based on its reputation and practices. "For example, Higher One does not issue credit cards to students, sell student information, or offer any types of lines of credit or loans," Stanton said.

Western Kentucky also issues refunds via paper check. Students who live in residence halls pick up their financial aid residual checks from their residence hall director during the fall and spring semesters. Students who don't live on campus receive their checks in the mail at the address on file.

"We began looking for ways to distribute refunds electronically as an enhanced service for students, which will provide fast access to their refund dollars," said Belinda Higginbotham, bursar. "We wanted a program that would reduce the administrative costs and time associated with the printing of physical checks and related stop payments, reconciliations, and other administrative processes."

She said Higher One was selected in part because it specializes in higher education and is well versed in the related federal and state regulations.

The vendor also trains students and staff in how to use the service; markets the program on campus to educate students on their refund choices; collects and maintains student banking information; distributes refunds based on each student's preference; handles bounced ACH payments or returned checks; fields refund-related customer service inquires from students and staff; and provides administrators with access to online real-time reporting.

Both institutions will implement the new service starting in January 2010.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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