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Higher One gives Webster University the benefits of electronic refunds without the worries of storing banking data

Vickie Fredrick is associate vice president for finance at Webster University in St. Louis. The university was looking to distribute refunds electronically but did not want to obtain and store student banking information itself, so it turned to Higher One. Ms. Frederick and her colleagues, Norm Senaldi and Mary Petersen, spoke about their experience..

Student refunds are a major process here. We have campuses all over the United States, and we were issuing all paper checks. It involved a lot of staff time, print costs, postage costs. Students would start calling us a week before a refund was anticipated, asking when they were going to get their check and pestering us until theyreceived it. We had numerous students requesting refunds to be overnighted to them. It bogged down our whole refund process.

"We had numerous students requesting refunds to be overnighted to them. It bogged down our whole refund process."

We were looking for a way to not only streamline our refund process, but also to bring electronic refunds to our students. However, we were reluctant to obtain and store student’s banking information in-house. We wanted an alternative that would provide us with a way to implement a refund to our students and let them choose the options for how they receive it, but also have the storage of student banking information hosted by another entity in a very secure fashion.

Yes. Our IT department developed software that provides automatic identification of students who get refunds based on six criteria, mostly having to do with whether these students are registered, are taking the number of hours that they should be taking, have a refund amount that comes from the current session, not the previous session. So at the same time that Higher One was here putting up their program, we were developing this separate program, which was complimentary to the Higher One refund process. It allows the people in the business office to look at a set of refunds each morning and confirm that they are proper refunds.

We launched in January 2007. For the last fourteen months we’ve refunded $94 million and more than 33,000 transactions. We’ve issued 37,000 OneCards to students.

Higher One sent out a huge folder, a binder of materials that guides you through the entire process. And they guide you in terms of how you should organize your committees. The whole implementation strategy that they had is very structured and moves you along to your goal. We identified two committees, an implementation committee and a marketing committee. Higher One organized all of the meetings, so it was very structured. Their project management was excellent.

I think this has been a total success. It’s really streamlined our whole process, and actually saved us a significant amount of money because we no longer are sending out checks. We’re not printing them. We’re not mailing them. We’re getting the money out to the students on a much faster basis. It eliminated some phone calls, some angry students. For the most part, I think our students have definitely embraced these options.

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