When its credit card fees hit $1.6 million in early 2011, Missouri State University officials decided there must be a better way. “Because it became so common for students and their family members to pay by credit card, the fees became unmanageable,” recalls Doug Willson, the bursar for the 23,000-student institution based in Springfield, Mo. In addition to reducing fee costs, MSU desired a means to move all card processing off-site to achieve efficiencies, improve data security and reduce burdens surrounding payment card industry (PCI) regulatory compliance.
“Like many institutions, we wanted experts to handle card-related functions so we could concentrate on educating students,” Willson says. MSU turned to a trusted technology partner, Higher One, and its web-enabled SmartPay system. With SmartPay, payers may use credit cards or make electronic funds transfers at no cost to the institution. All banking and credit card information is stored and processed securely within Higher One’s computing systems. “We had already implemented Higher One’s Payment Processing, Cashiering, eBill Presentation, Tuition Payment Plans, and eMarket solutions in 2008,” Willson says. “All of the Higher One solutions integrated seamlessly with our Ellucian Banner ERP system. Adding SmartPay to the suite just made sense.”
During MSU’s roll out of SmartPay, Higher One provided the same top-notch support as with the earlier deployments. “Higher One supplied posters, banners, tutorials, training and student group presentations when we adopted the original systems,” says Willson. “We were equally pleased with support for SmartPay.” On the cost-reduction side, MSU benefits from the ability of SmartPay to separate credit card fees from payment amounts. “For example, if a bill is $100, the university receives the full amount,” explains Willson. “The payer agrees to $100 plus the cost of the card fee.” And, due to full integration with Higher One’s Payment Processing and Tuition Payment Plans, students receive notification whenever a payment is made—day or night. “Students control account access given to family members, or others, via Tuition Payment Plans,” notes Willson. “However, all of a payer’s financial information is kept private, which is especially important because so many students have split families.”
According to Willson, over 80 percent of the individuals who previously paid by credit card now use electronic transfer instead. “That creates huge savings for the university, students, family members, and other bill payers,” he adds. Further, MSU’s credit card fee costs for all types of university business have plummeted to just under $200,000. Willson credits this savings to a combination of SmartPay and eMarket. “The use of eMarket across the institution has really taken off,” he says. “We started with 20 store licenses, but moved to the unlimited plan because demand was so strong.” Higher One’s eMarket enables MSU departments and student groups to quickly set up purchasing capability for conferences, alumni donations and a host of other uses. “For example, our Mountain Grove location conducts grape research and produces wine,” says Willson. “With eMarket, they sell books, CDs and other products to people across the country.”
Beyond payments, Higher One has also saved MSU tens of thousands of dollars annually on paper, printing, and postage costs by enabling electronic statements. “All of the process and automation efficiencies we’ve gained using the Higher One suite have allowed us to reassign two full-time cashiers to other areas,” says Willson. “Overall, Higher One is a huge asset to our institution.”
For more information, go to www.higherone.com.