After The Valley Citizen published two articles about local colleges outsourcing financial aid disbursements to Higher One, we received a letter from Higher One’s Lauren Perry saying that Higher One wished to “set the record straight so students know the truth.” The Valley Citizen is pleased to publish the letter in its entirety. Incidentally, a recent report from Bloomberg claims Higher One is for sale. Does that mean Higher One will sell students’ information without their consent?
To the Editor of The Valley Citizen:
My name is Lauren Perry and I am the campus media liaison for Higher One.
I read your recent articles “Is Your College Betting Against Students with Higher One?” and “Higher One: Just Another Corporate Tentacle in Higher Education” and was disappointed in many of the misunderstandings that I saw in the articles. I wanted to write to set the record straight so students know the truth.
Schools partner with Higher One so students can receive their financial aid refund dollars faster and more conveniently by allowing them to choose online how they want to receive their money. Students will always have a choice in how they receive their money and all of their options are cost-free. This is a standard set by the Department of Education.
Once students receive the envelope and card in the mail from Higher One, they should be sure to follow the instructions and go online to select how they want to receive their refund. Students will have three different choices, so they should read and understand their options carefully—these will include receiving a paper check, electronic transfer into their own bank account or electronic transfer into a new Higher One OneAccount, which they can elect to open.
Again, the choice is up to the student. Should a student choose to open a OneAccount with Higher One, there is NO FINE PRINT and there are NO HIDDEN FEES. We let students know about everything upfront before opening the account, which is why we encourage them to read the terms. Also, students are able to take advantage of online resources showing how to use the account for free, such as using the ATMs on campus and always choosing the “swipe and sign” method to avoid retailer fees.
Higher One is very upfront about its account structures, but not all banks are. Before choosing any account, doing ample research on local credit unions and national banks is important. The Higher One primary OneAccount doesn’t cost anything to open and students will never get charged a monthly fee—no matter what their balance.
The bottom line is for students to read the disclosures and do their homework before picking an account. Be informed and the choice is yours with Higher One.
One thing the article brings up is privacy concerns, which are a concern to us too. You should know that Higher One will never sell or share students’ information to third parties without their consent. We take this very seriously.
Additionally, on identify verification, by law, Higher One is required to verify the identity of all customers choosing a OneAccount. For the vast majority of customers, this verification is done automatically. However, for some customers, additional information may be required to complete the identity verification. We recently introduced updates to strengthen our verification process and this has temporarily resulted in a higher volume of identity verifications to process. In the meantime, students should know the fastest way to submit documentation is to log in to our secure website and upload any requested documentation from a scan or image.
In terms of revenue, Higher One provides much more than refund services and checking accounts. Despite what you might have heard, less than 50% of our revenue comes from charges assessed to account holders. In reality, we get paid by merchants through what is called an “interchange fee” at the point of sale. This model is very common in banking. We also have other product lines including CASHNet and CampusLabs. Colleges pay for our CASHNet payment processing solutions (like for online tuition payment services and essentially helping the school accept ANY type of payment) and CampusLabs, which helps colleges analyze their data on student retention rates, course evaluations, and other important measures on campus.
Now you know the facts and we aim for students’ experience with Higher One to be positive. Good luck to all of the student readers inside and outside of the classroom this year.
Lauren Perry | Public Relations Coordinator
Higher One, Inc. | HigherOne.com
In going over basic critical thinking skills with my students, a lecture which began with the words “Question Authority” written on the whiteboard, I asked how many of my students actually read the fine print whenever they sign or accept documents. Most of them admitted they did not. I think that’s a pretty common mistake. However, the next sentence that came out of a student’s mouth was in regard to the HigherOne issue mentioned above. A student who is in my class because he reads at the 6th grade reading level turned around in his seat and told the class: “Those cards we got for financial aid will charge you fees for almost everything. I got my money deposited in my own account. If you don’t have one, tell them to send you a check. What a rip!” A couple other students agreed. The students are on to this without much help from me, but we did have an interesting class discussion in each of my classes a couple weeks ago. “Choice is where you actually have one before anything happens to you,” as one of my other students put it.