Just five years ago, the business office at James Madison University in Virginia was spending about $25 for every refund check it processed. Multiply that by the tens of thousands of students who received such checks each semester, including summers, and the cost quickly added up.
Today, the school has all but eliminated paper checks in favor of BankMobile Refund Management, an electronic disbursement system that processes and disburses financial aid credit balances and other refunds.
“Students get their money so much faster than we could get it to them with paper checks,” says Linda C. Combs, director of the University Business Office. “From a customer service perspective, it’s been huge.”
And from a business office perspective?
“It is giving back time to our accounts payable staff,” Combs says. “Before Refund Management, accounts payable staff would devote three days a week to process checks in the first few weeks of classes.”
UBO staff members now use this gained time to meet with students, to answer busy phone lines and to otherwise manage the additional workflow that comes with freshman classes that increase in size every year, Combs says. The school currently has about 23,000 students.
JMU started exploring an electronic disbursement system in 2013. “We were doing our own paper check refunds and offered direct deposit, but we were having a difficult time getting students to sign up,” Combs says.
Plus, the university didn’t want to store student banking information on school servers. So it teamed with BankMobile to implement a suite of products that included electronic disbursements.
“We don’t have to reconcile bank accounts. We simply send BankMobile a file with the student’s name and account information, and they handle everything,” Combs says, adding that in the rare instance when a paper check is required, BankMobile handles everything related to misdirected, lost or stale dated paper checks.
Students are notified by email or text when their refund has been deposited, and the money is available immediately if the student selects the optional BankMobile Vibe account.
“Most of our students have a bank account, but those who don’t could open a Vibe account through BankMobile,” says Combs, referring to the student-focused account that offers direct deposit, fee-free Allpoint® ATMs and no monthly minimums for students.
To get students up-to-speed on the new system, BankMobile staff educated them about their refund choices and explain the benefits of electronic disbursements: speed, security and simplicity. “They sent out multiple communications on our behalf. That’s why it was so successful,” Combs says.
The university is now working on implementing a direct link to BankMobile from within a student’s JMU account—MyMadison. Through this link, students will be able to select their refund preference.
“Refunds happen so quickly now. It’s so much easier with BankMobile,” Combs says.
For more information, visit bankmobiledisbursements.com