Financial aid introduces debit card system

Mt. SAC and Higher One have introduced ATMs to be used with the new student card. Jose De Castro / MOUNTAINEER

The Mt. SAC card, through Higher One, is the new way that students will be receiving their financial aid and refund checks from now on.  According to their website, www.higherone.com, Higher One is a financial service company offering refund management and payment services to higher education institutions. Three college students founded the company in 2000.

Associate Vice President of Fiscal Services Linda Baldwin said that the card was implemented in hopes of making things easier for students. “It gives students more options and gets money into students’ hands quicker,” she said.

Not all students are satisfied with the new system. Sonia Anaya, 19, early child education major, chose not to use the Higher One card and said that receiving her money has become harder since the new card’s implementation. She said she did not want to use the card due to her buying habits.

“I think if I had the card I wouldn’t have control over my spending,” Anaya said. “I spend more with cards.”

There is no way to cancel the new card, but there are options for students who prefer not to use it, such as still receiving a check or having their money direct deposited into an existing bank account. The card supplies the account number, which is then used for the students to set up their personal preference.

“Students do not need to get a Higher One account, even though the website may seem to push that way,” Baldwin said.  Anaya said that choosing her preference was simple and the website explained things step by step.

In November 2011, information concerning the new way that funds would be released was sent out to the students through their portals. However, that may not have been enough.

“They didn’t really talk about it; [they] just sent it out,” Anaya said.  For students like Anaya, Baldwin said that students should examine the website. The website functions as a financial educational tool with lots of information about the Higher One account and general finances.  “Students need to be consumer aware and compare other accounts to the Higher One account,” Baldwin said.

According to Baldwin, the new cards help prevent fraud and stalled funds. In the past there have been lots of issues with students not receiv- ing their checks or having them stolen. With the new cards, administration can verify whether or not students have received their funds in the event of an issue.

“[Before] students never knew when their financial aid would be available, now they get an email or can sign up for a text message to notify them,” Baldwin said.

There are six ATMs that have been placed around campus that charge no transaction fees when used with the Mt. SAC card. Also, students can retain their Higher One accounts after they have moved on from the school.

The cards officially launched during winter intersession to make sure things were working properly, and this semester over $6.5 million has been distributed to approximately 7,200 students.

- Alex Fenn
Arts and Entertainment Editor