Thought Leadership Q&A
You’ve been Higher One’s CEO for six months. How would you describe the company you now lead?
Higher One has been an innovator and leader since its founding in 2000. We help schools achieve success by reducing their administrative costs—enabling them to reinvest those savings into academic programs and into creating a campus experience that is all about student success. We also work with students directly to provide financial services, tools, and information to help them understand their finances and make smarter everyday financial decisions. In essence, we help colleges and universities help their students succeed.
Why do so many schools turn to Higher One to manage their financial aid refund process?
The company has a great history and reputation for service. When I talk to institutions we work with, it is so clear that over the years, this company has remained true to its mission to help schools move from a paper-based process to a more efficient and student-friendly process for disbursing financial aid refunds. Schools are able to reinvest the money saved through Higher One’s refund management service into academics, while also getting students their refund electronically—which is faster, safer, less expensive, and more convenient. Students rely heavily upon these funds to buy books, laptops, pay rent and remain on track for graduation. For these reasons, our retention rate is very high; about 98 percent of our institutions continue to work with us. We are very proud of this.
Beyond refund management, what other products and services does Higher One offer schools and students?
We’re a company that seeks to help schools drive down their costs, but we are primarily committed to student success. Statistics show financial stresses are a large contributor to college dropout rates. Higher One is committed to trying to remove financial barriers to student success. We’re increasing the capabilities of our CASHNet service, which gives students and parents the ability to manage payments at any time, over the web or in-person, with accounts updated in real-time. And it gives them the flexibility of using tuition payment plans to make college costs more affordable. In addition, our Campus Labs analytics suite gives student affairs departments the tools to identify the students in danger of dropping out, long before the typical warning signs appear. In this way, we help schools increase retention and graduation rates. And for years, we have been helping students become financially capable with our financial literacy seminars, workshops, grants and partnerships throughout the nation, which help students understand, limit and manage their student loan obligations. We’re now going one step further and embedding financial literacy tools into our products and services.
How does Higher One work with more than 1,900 schools and their unique student populations?
Higher One’s products and services are deep and wide enough to be assistive to several stakeholders on campus, ranging from streamlining the institution’s performance analytics and financial aid refund processes to offering students innovative banking services, tuition payment plans, and the basics of financial management. In addition, our services are focused on increasing student completion rates through data analytics and the early assessment of at-risk students.
What’s the future for Higher One?
Today we serve more than 13 million students, and the number is growing. Higher One’s future is bright because our college and university partners value our company’s ability to give their students the tools they need to be successful. As the leader in providing financial aid refund management to schools along with the other complement of services, we intend to set the industry standard for delivering products and services that meet and exceed new regulatory requirements and the unique needs of today’s college students. We recognize the bar has been raised for financial service providers working with colleges and universities, and we want to raise it even higher.