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Speedy refunds are pleasing staff and students at a community college in Arizona

With Higher One?s OneDisburse? Refund Management? system, 96 percent of Mohave Community College students receive electronic refunds

Located in northwest Arizona, Mohave Community College has four campuses in a county that spans almost 14,000 square miles. To get from the centrally located business office on the Kingman campus to the North Mohave campus requires traveling around the Grand Canyon.

Each time it issued financial aid refunds, the Mohave Community College business office cut checks in Kingman, sorted them by campus, and then dispatched them the 40 or 50 miles by mail or courier to the two southern campuses?and even farther to the north. Then students would spend the better part of a morning or afternoon standing in line at their campus bookstores to pick up their checks.

"It's marketing itself because of how easy it is to use."

Switching to electronic refunds with Higher One’s OneDisburse Refund Management system in the fall semester of 2008 has reduced a 2?-day process to one morning. Students at any of the four campuses who open a OneAccount FDIC -Insured checking account can access their refunds on the same day they are processed by using their OneCard Debit MasterCard?, which also serves as a student ID and library card.

“The primary goal was to improve student service,” says Accounting Operations Manager Jess Jacobs.

If there was any doubt about whether the students of Mohave Community College were pleased with the shift to electronic refunds, consider this: 91 percent of students have their refunds electronically deposited into the OneAccount, and another 5 percent of students have refunds sent by ACH transfer to the bank of their choice. The remaining 4 percent opted to continue receiving paper checks, but now they are issued by Higher One and mailed directly to them.

First-year participation “was higher than we expected; we underestimated our students,” Jacobs says. “It’s marketing itself because of how easy it is to use.”

Mohave Community College achieved another important goal with the OneCard. In the wake of the violence at Virginia Tech, MCC administrators wanted students to have an official photo ID card, and the OneCard serves that purpose too. “In the future we’d like to increase functionality of the card to include secure door access,” Jacobs says. With a severe statewide budget crunch, there’s no money for new entry equipment, he explains, so “that’s a future consideration.”

The OneCard also helped to cement a higher level of school spirit when Mohave Community College, which was established in 1971, introduced its first mascot during the 2008-2009 school year. The mascot, a bighorn sheep, was incorporated into the design of the card.

In the first semester, the college experienced a few predictable hiccups as it attempted to fully incorporate the card into its registration process and ensure that students didn’t ignore it when it arrived at their homes over the summer. But from the perspective of the business office, implementation of the refund disbursement process itself went extremely smoothly, Jacobs says.

“Even from last semester to this semester, there were very few problems because it’s becoming part of the culture here,” he says. Students have responded so well that the college is developing more ways to use the card: A pay-to-print service is in the works, and the school is encouraging local merchants to give students a discount if they flash their OneCard.

When students have questions, “Higher One does field a good number of calls for us,” Jacobs says. “They are very responsive. I’d have to give them good marks for that.”