If you received a green envelope in your mail, you have just received the key to your financial aid, whether you know it or not.
According to Student Financial Offices, Western’s new method of reimbursing students for financial aid will be exclusively handled by Higher One, a service provided by The Bancorp Bank headquartered in Wilmington, Del.
Signing up for a OneAccount is optional. Students will be allowed to have their refunds deposited into the financial institution of their choice by visiting WWUChoiceCard.com.
After logging in and creating a password, students are asked for the 16-digit number on the debit card he or she received. Students will need this card to direct financial aid and manage direct deposit accounts for the remainder of their academic careers with Western.
Bob Putich, supervisor of Student Financial Services, said Western made the switch to Higher One to encourage more students receive refunds through direct deposit.
“To cut down on transaction costs and save the students and school money, we wanted to do a 100 percent direct-deposit program,” Putich said.
Higher One’s services are utilized by more than 770 public and private higher education institutions across the country, and the accounts are FDIC insured and require no minimum balance for the first nine months, according to the company’s website.
At Western, the process of selecting a refund option had students flooding Financial Services offices and phone lines during the last few weeks before classes started, Putich said
“We’ve discovered that selecting a refund option is absolutely clunky at best,” Putich said. “That was not our intention.”
To make the process go more smoothly, Putich said significant changes are being planned.
“We’ve asked the company to personalize the emails they send to our students,” Putich said. “They are currently handling the accounts of over 700 schools, but that doesn’t mean we should settle for generic emails.”
To ease students into using Higher One, a task force is being spearheaded by both Putich and Associated Students President Anna Ellermeier.
“I recognize that students have concerns,” Ellermeier said. “We are working very hard to create a task force to address those concerns and provide students a forum where they can directly address the task force.”
For those who have chosen to use the OneAccount, Putich said students have been pleased with their choice. Forty percent of those who have chosen a refund preference chose to open a OneAccount.
“[The first week of school] students [were] quite pleased with the refund process,” Putich said. “Students who chose the OneAccount had money in their account at 9 a.m. on [the first day of school].”
For those who destroyed or lost their Choice Card, Putich said there has been a successful card reordering effort.
“These were minor concerns we had before using Higher One services and now they have turned out to be of no concern at all,” Putich said.
For some students, such as junior Matt Dallum, choosing a refund preference was challenging.
“I went online and declined,” he said. “After that, they asked my routing number, tracking number, then I had to print off a form and mail/fax it to the Higher One offices,” Dallum said. “The whole process is just completely inconvenient and really unclear.”
Ellermeier and Putich said they are paying attention to threads on the VikingVillage, Western’s campus-wide online forum, and emails voicing concerns regarding issues related to using the Higher One system of direct deposit.
Ellermeier said the task force will be organized within the next few weeks.