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At Vincennes University, a little education goes a long way to ease concerns about debit cards

Parents and students gain confidence in convenience and security with Higher One's Refund Management system

When Vincennes University introduced the Blazer OneCard on its three Indiana campuses a year ago, students and parents were skeptical. Why, they wanted to know, was the university asking students to carry a MasterCard?

But as university officials found out, a little education goes a long way, and the skepticism was quickly replaced with a high degree of satisfaction. The idea for the Blazer OneCard emerged from the university’s decision to streamline the cumbersome process of issuing financial aid refunds so students could get their money more quickly and safely, according to Vincennes University Bursar Lori Hostetler.

With the Higher One OneDisburse Refund Management system, the university sends a file to Higher One, which then deposits refunds directly into a student’s OneAccount - an easy-to-open online checking account - or via ACH to any bank the student chooses. Higher One also sends paper checks to a small number of students who choose that method.

"It was very important to point out that it's not a credit card. A debit card teaches financial responsibility."

The OneAccount offers key advantages: The FDIC-insured account has no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements, and students can use their Blazer OneCard to make debit purchases wherever a Debit MasterCard is accepted.

“It was very important to point out that it’s not a credit card,” says Hostetler. “A debit card teaches financial responsibility.”

The OneAccount is also the fastest way to receive a refund, giving access to money the same day it’s released by the university. Vincennes University also uses the Higher One OnePay feature for direct deposit of student payroll. The OneAccount offers features that are second nature for today’s students: online banking services, mobile balance alerts, and online bill pay, including an easy way to make online tuition payments. Students can send money to friends, and parents have the convenience of transferring money electronically into student accounts.

Rather than have students carry a confusing assortment of cards, university officials decided to make the Blazer OneCard the student ID. Students use the OneCard to check out books from the library and gain access to university facilities, such as the student recreation center. “It is a mandatory student ID, but it’s not mandatory to use it as a debit card,” Hostetler says.

Student privacy and safety are paramount concerns for Vincennes University officials. Electronic refunds reduce the risk that students will lose checks, and the OneCard debit card makes it unnecessary for students to carry around a lot of cash. Students can also use the OneCard at ATMs, including a no-fee, 24-hour drive-up ATM right outside the campus police station.

To reduce the risk of mailing cards to the wrong person, Vincennes University set up an effective verification system. Before a card was produced for a student, that student needed to have a photo on file with the university and to have verified his or her address online. To encourage students to do the address verification, the university held a big promotion. Students who verified their address were entered into a raffle. Among the prizes was an iPod contributed by Higher One.

Recognizing that many students wear their Blazer OneCard on a lanyard necklace, the university provides a holder that protects the card from wear and tear and keeps the card number hidden from view.

“It’s gone very smoothly and students have taken to it,” Hostetler says. “Anything new is hard to introduce, but Higher One has a wonderful support system. Students or staff can call, they are always available to help you solve any problems, and they really do a very good job.”