In just three months, a revolution in distributing financial aid refunds
Wilmington University’s open admissions policy, flexible scheduling and 11 locations in Delaware and New Jersey are fundamental to its mission of offering careeroriented undergraduate and graduate degree programs for a diverse range of traditional and nontraditional students.
Another essential element in the university’s mission is the ability to respond rapidly to the evolving needs of its 11,700 students. So when students pleaded for direct deposit of their tuition refunds, Wilmington University administrators listened. Using Higher One’s OneDisburse Refund Management system, Wilmington University students received their first electronic refunds in January.
“A lot of students questioned why we couldn’t electronically transmit funds into their checking accounts,” said Trudy Hite, director of student financial services. “Our university administration is very proactive in listening to student concerns and reacting to them. We are used to changing on a dime.”
University administrators were astounded at how fast and easy it was to transition from its system of mailing 10,000 paper checks a year to a more efficient system of electronic refunds. It took just three months from their very first meetings with Higher One to issue the first batch of refunds to student bank accounts.
“One of the things that set Higher One apart was that they could deliver this so quickly. We went live in January, and our CFO likes that kind of action,” Hite said. “It was easy because Higher One has done it so many times. If we had done it in-house, it would have taken longer.”
Wilmington University administrators were impressed with the company’s easy-to-follow implementation process. “They keep you on track,” she explained. “When you follow Higher One’s schedule, it’s like you just hop on the train and go.”
Almost three-quarters of the students who receive tuition refunds opted to open a OneAccount, Higher One’s no minimum balance, no monthly fee, FDIC-insured online checking account. Most of the other students have their refunds direct deposited to other banks. Higher One sends checks to the few students who didn’t want to switch to the new system.
“We were shocked, because we didn’t think it would be that high, but our relationship manager at Higher One told us that was typical,” Hite stated.
Students who select the OneAccount option can use their Debit MasterCard? for retail purchases and to withdraw cash at no cost at an on-campus ATM maintained by Higher One.
Students with a OneAccount especially like the fact that they can receive text messages to alert them as soon as their funds are available. “That’s powerful,” Hite said. With the old system, students never knew exactly when a check would arrive in their mailbox and they worried that checks could be lost or stolen.
Wilmington University officials recognized that by responding to the requests of students for speedy electronic refunds, they would also save costs on printing and postage for the labor-intensive process of mailing checks. Before choosing Higher One, however, university administrators checked out the company’s service record with other schools. The good reviews have been borne out. “They service over two million students, so we knew it was a reputable company,” Hite said. “It went even better than I expected.”
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