For students at Sam Houston State University, a slim wallet-size card is the key to getting financial aid refunds, a paycheck from a campus job, access to the dorm, a good book , a good meal and more.
The Bearkat OneCard from Higher One is truly the one card that students need at Sam Houston State University, which has about 16,500 students. “We just continue to look to Higher One for ways to make things more efficient for us as administrators and more convenient for students, ” says BearkatOneCard Director Kristy L. Vienne, director.
Five years ago, the Huntsville, Texas-based university was just the third school to use the HigherOne OneDisburse Refund Management program. Instead of waiting on long lines for paper checks, students could have their disbursements deposited directly into a free checking account linked to a OneAccount debit card branded with the university’s Bearkat mascot. They also had the option of having the funds deposited into a third-party bank or receiving a check in the mail.
Today, more than 90 percent of the students have their reimbursements directly deposited to a bank - the vast majority using a OneAccount.
Besides avoiding long waits for paper checks, students with OneAccounts can tap their refunds immediately by using the Debit Mastercard to make purchases or to withdraw cash from an ATM. Students also enjoyed the “Send Money” feature, which allows family members to deposit spending money into a student’s OneAccount.
“I think it is a really good tool because my parents can send me money really easily, electronically,” says Kevin, a student at SHSU.
The program worked so well - providing financial savings for the school and convenience for students - that administrators have sought ways to expand it. The Bearkat OneCard is currently the Sam Houston State University ID card, and students use it to check out library books, buy meals and gain access to dorms, athletic facilities, and the health center.
“We continually try to find new and innovative ways to offer more convenience to students,” Vienne says. The natural next step was payroll for the 1,450 student employees. While faculty and staff could have their paychecks deposited electronically into a bank account, student employees still received paper checks every two weeks. By implementing OneDisburse Payroll in August 2006, the university could pay students electronically without having to worry about collecting, managing and protecting student employee bank data. Higher One handles the process, and only 3 percent still opt for checks.
The BearkatOneCard is so convenient that many faculty members opt to open free OneAccounts, and the university started using it to disburse travel advances for athletic coaches.
Two reasons that the Higher One programs work so well for SHSU administrators and students, Vienne says, are the company’s singular focus on the higher education market and the great efforts Higher One makes to listen to the ideas and critiques of its customers. Vienne and Vice President for Student Services Frank Parker sit on Higher One’s steering committee, which provides feedback on existing products and sets priorities for the coming year.
“I can be a harsh critic, because I think that’s what our students demand of us,” she says. “I have high expectations, and the people at Higher One have never let me down.”