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Articles: Commerce

Heartland Payment Systems’ Campus Solutions division has been awarded contracts by 12 higher education districts and campuses totaling 20 different colleges to manage financial aid disbursement and refund management with its electronic financial aid disbursement product. ... Higher One has entered into an agreement with Wright Express Financial Services Corporation, a provider of business payment processing and information management solutions. Wright Express Financial Services Corporation will establish and maintain Higher One’s OneAccount for a portion of Higher One’s customers.

With ever more affordable options available to them, a new report shows that students are spending somewhat less on average for their textbooks than in previous years. According to the Student Watch study conducted by the OnCampus Research division of the National Association of College Stores (NACS), students spent $655 on required course materials this year, down from $667 two years ago and from $702 four years ago.

Leaders from 16 community colleges around the country gathered at the White House in September to participate in a roundtable discussion on the role community colleges play in America. The discussion was part of the Obama administration’s Champions of Change program, a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping to meet the many challenges of the 21st century. Education Gateways recently spoke to four of the Champions of Change honorees about the challenges and opportunities they face as presidents of their institutions.

Nelnet QuikPAY

Since the College at Brockport, State University of New York, began using the QuikPAY system from Nelnet Business Solutions, the school doesn’t hear complaints about bills for student account payments being lost in the mail. And, in the first month of use, there’s been a dramatic 475 percent increase in the amount of online payments collected, according to Teresa Major, director of student accounts and accounting services.

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Bill Cooper didn't mince words when Stanford University officials contacted him about coming on board as their director of purchasing. "I said, 'No, I'm not interested in a fragmented function and I'm not interested in an institution that has just a director of purchasing,'" recalls Cooper, who now has an office at ... Stanford.

Albert Einstein had this to say about problem-solving: "You can never solve a problem on the same level on which it was created." In other words, the solution lies at a higher level. That is certainly the truth for many efforts in higher education, where overcoming administrative challenges? that are holding back student or institutional success or service is often about reaching for innovative solutions.

There are 18 million college students, 40 percent of whom receive federal financial aid every spring and every fall. The average student, after class drops and other adjustments, gets 2.5 refunds totaling $1,300. That's a lot of money and a lot of transactions that have to be made according to a stringent set of regulations.

For Mike Freeman, the projected arrival of a Wendy's in fall 2012 in the student union at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is not just about tasty burgers.

The campus bookstore at Tallahassee Community College (Fla.) uncovered a problem in the course of its annual student survey. "What we noticed last spring was that more and more students were not buying textbooks, period," says Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Teresa Smith. "They told us that in our surveys. They wrote comments like, 'I just didn't buy my textbook this semester' or 'I borrowed the chapters I needed from a friend when it was time to study for an exam.'"

Educating students to "think critically, reason wisely, and act humanely" is solidly at the core of what we do in higher education. Sometimes it seems, though, that what's at the periphery—including retail, real estate, and public facilities— demands an inordinate amount of our time and energy. In audits and reports, letters to alumni, and press releases, we lump those responsibilities together under "auxiliary enterprises." The diversity and range of what these may be, however, defies categorization.

At the University of San Diego (USD), while students and faculty look forward to summertime, the USD Wireless Team is working without any real breaks. The USD Wireless Team knows that summer brings more than 12,000 visitors on campus for events, sports camps, and conferences. Each year the Team is faced with a number of challenges in supporting these visitors, including providing secure wireless internet access across a campus that spans 180 acres.

WHEN LYNNE SCHAEFER STARTED HER position as vice president for administration and finance at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2005, the institution's financial reporting tool left much to be desired. Developed internally to pull data from UMBC's PeopleSoft ERP, the tool has produced complex reports that make it "hard to find exactly what pieces of information you're looking at," she says. "This creates frustration, especially for the untrained eye. ... I'm sure in some cases it has resulted in people throwing up their hands and just hoping it all goes ok."

Charles Dickens penned the opening lines of “A Tale of Two Cities” to describe French Revolutionary times, but they could easily apply to the modern world of student refunds. Or, more specifically, to two of the primary alternatives to paper checks. One is simple, secure and smart. The other can be convoluted, controversial and painful for students.

As colleges and universities face the sobering realities of the economic crisis, one has to wonder: Is higher education approaching the perfect storm?

For many universities, funding allocations are at maximum levels, while some legislatures are already instituting significant budget cuts. Endowment levels for public and private institutions are questionable as economic woes curtail benefactors’ ability to give. And costs on everything from fuel to health insurance continue to increase with no end in sight.

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