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The University of Findlay wins on a 3-point shot

A university that prides itself on flexibility - and basketball - benefits from three Higher One services at once
University Business, Feb 2009

If you can solve three problems all at once, why not just go ahead and do it?

That was the attitude that led The University of Findlay, in northwest Ohio, to adopt Higher One’s OneDisburse Refund Management system and at the same time make the Higher One OneCard its universal student ID and have the company disburse student payroll.

The idea of launching all three systems at once made perfect sense for a university that prides itself on flexibility and innovation. In addition to a liberal arts curriculum, The University of Findlay offers specialized programs to 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students in fields ranging from equestrian studies to nuclear medicine technology.

As The University of Findlay administrators considered partnering with Higher One, their first priority was to find a more efficient way to disburse refunds so students could have their money more quickly and more securely, says Bob Link, the university’s business manager and director of human resources. Administrators also recognized that an electronic refund management system would save money on printing costs and reduce staff time devoted to processing checks.

“We wanted to reduce that time commitment so we could better utilize our staff to increase customer service to students and to reduce the turnaround time so students have funds in their hands as soon as possible,” says Link.

Higher One offers students the ability to open an FDIC-insured OneAccount, which has no minimum balance, no monthly fee, and easy-to-use online services. The account is linked to a debit MasterCard that can be used to withdraw cash from an ATM or to pay for purchases. Students can also have refunds deposited into another bank account or receive paper checks by mail, but university administrators saw other advantages to encouraging use of the university’s Oiler OneCard.

“If we were handing out these cards for refund management, it only made sense to use them as the student ID as well,” Link says. The card can be used as a meal card for dining services on and off campus, as a stored value card, and as an access card to facilities like computer labs and the health club. Students now use their cards to get 750 free copies or print pages from the computer lab. And as the university’s top-ranked, Division II basketball team rolled toward an undefeated season, the card served as a way to check eligibility for free student and faculty admittance to the games and other athletic events.

The decision to have Higher One disburse student payroll also made perfect sense, since faculty and staff already received their paychecks through direct deposit. The university cut down on the inefficient process of printing 525 student paychecks every two weeks, stuffing them in envelopes, and setting up a location for students to pick them up.

Higher One and university administrators worked hard to ensure the successful launch of all three systems for the start of the fall semester in 2007. Mother Nature certainly put them to the test. In the third week of August, northwest Ohio and much of the Midwest experienced the worst flooding in at least half a century. On the very day that OneCards were supposed to reach students, the town was underwater and the postal service could not deliver the mail.

“You can imagine the difficulty we had with the cards during the flood,” Link says, “but the team at Higher One was supportive and worked with us to make sure we had what we needed to make sure it launched successfully.”

Since establishing a partnership with Higher One, 80 percent of all financial aid refunds and 70 percent of student paychecks have been distributed electronically. Regardless of the method of distribution, all of these payments are distributed by Higher One, meaning The University of Findlay no longer has to print and distribute paper checks for refunds or paychecks.