Meeting the needs of every student at SUNY Broome is a critical part of the upstate New York institution’s mission. And when a large portion of the 7,000-student population is made up of first-generation and non-traditional students, meeting their needs requires paying particular attention to campus finances. Many SUNY Broome students do not have bank accounts, says Julie Lakin, bursar
“Check-cashing vendors charge exorbitant fees for unbanked students to cash their financial aid refund checks,” she says.
Using checks to dispense refunds, as SUNY Broome did prior to 2009, also presented challenges. There could be a significant lag time between mailing the check and the student receiving it. Some students would never receive their checks in the mail for a variety of reasons. The staff in the bursar’s office spent many hours processing checks and stuffing envelopes. The goal was to work smarter, not harder, and the solution was found through Higher One’s Refund Management® service.
Higher One’s Refund Management service allows refunds to be electronically deposited to an easily accessible, internet-only checking account. Although the checking account is specifically designed to meet the needs of students, including recognizing account holders for smart money management, academic achievement and good financial behavior, Higher One handles the entire refund process for the student and the institution no matter how the student chooses to receive funds, including addressing questions and handling exceptions for all disbursements.
“Higher One provides easy refund options for all students,” says Lakin. “Students who do not have a bank account are given the opportunity to create one.”
Financial literacy (available to students through Higher One’s $tart with Change initiative) is particularly valuable because it is sensitive to the fact that many students are uneducated in financial matters, Lakin notes. Students can learn how to make a budget and how to use their cards without incurring service fees.
That service to both students and campuses has been a hallmark of SUNY Broome’s relationship with Higher One.
“We work with many vendors, and Higher One stands out for their service,” says Lakin. “They work with us to help us make decisions, and they understand our challenges.”
So when Lakin and her team were evaluating options for online billing and payment services, the opportunity to work with the provider that was always responsive and ready with answers seemed like a no-brainer.
CASHNet® Payment Solutions by Higher One allows for automated bill presentment and processing on the administrative end, and easy online bill payment for students through eBill. SUNY Broome launched eBill for a small enrollment group in the winter 2015 semester, and expanded campuswide in spring 2015.
“It is great to be able to provide all financial services in one place for our students,” says Lakin. “We have created an experience that is as seamless and positive as possible.”
Starting in spring 2016, SUNY Broome students will be able to pay tuition and fees online and even set up payment plans through CASHNet ePayments and Payment Plans. CASHNet’s FERPA compliance will play an important role as SUNY Broome’s population evolves.
“We are seeing a growing number of just-graduated students,” says Lakin. “Their parents often pay their tuition, so CASHNet’s security and easy-to-use features are really important.”
Departments beyond the bursar’s office feel the effects of Higher One’s attention to its campus partners. Members of SUNY Broome’s IT department speak favorably of working with Higher One, says Lakin.
“Our IT team says they wish they received the same level of support from other vendors as they do from Higher One,” she says. “It is important to me not to overburden the IT team, and Higher One does not do that.”
The access to support—both in online training modules and from the Higher One team—has made implementation seamless for SUNY Broome.
“Higher One representatives go out of their way to make sure I have everything I need,” says Lakin. “They are always available and always flexible.”
For more information, visit www.HigherOne.com