College stops accepting Visa for tuition payments

After six years of being an acceptable means of covering student tuition and fee payments, Visa credit, debit and check cards are no longer accepted by the College via the Web.

According to Kathleen Ragan, director of Student Financial Services, last year the College spent $400,000 on processing fees for Visa cards after the company implemented a new policy increasing the fees that in past years were covered with money from student tuitions.

The office of Student Accounts informed students by mail this summer that as of July 1 only MasterCard, Discover and American Express credit cards would be accepted when paying student fees for things like tuition and room and board.

Considering several factors – expenses like professor salaries and benefits, the state law that prohibits colleges from raising tuition over eight percent next year and its tight budget this year – the College realized that it would be in their best interest to eliminate excessive expenses in future years. “Something had to give and this was one way of cutting $400,000 worth of the College’s expenses,” Ragan said.

Well aware of the inconvenience this new policy presents for some students, the College wants to make the transition more accommodating for students. Therefore, a variety of payment options that seem to be rather easy and simple will be provided.

For instance, students can now pay student fees with VISA checks as well as Electronic checks or eChecks. “Students with VISA cards can request VISA checks from their providers, pay their bills and then have the money show up on their credit card statements,”Ragan said. “Plus it doesn’t cost the College anything.”

An eCheck is even simpler. Essentially, it is an electronic payment mechanism that allows one to make high value payments over the Internet. eChecks are of no cost and they work the same way as paper checks but offer fewer manual steps. They are accessible to students from the office of Student Accounts Web site and allow them to transfer money from their checking accounts to pay their fees.

Before settling on this new policy, the College considered several other options. One proposal involved imposing an average sum that would be paid by students for any transactions they made. This additional fee would have been added to the student tuition fee. It was thought that this extra fee could cover the $400,000 spent for processing fees of the 2003-2004 year.

Mathematically, since there are 6,000 student enrolled in the College, this fee would have been around $67.

The office of Student Accounts, however, later realized that such a large request would be unfair to some students.

To explain, Ragan gave the example of Student A with a tuition bill $4,000 and Student B (who has a full scholarship) with only a parking bill of $25. For convenience fees, the College would have paid $92 for Student A and $0.50 for Student B. In this case, the additional tuition fee of $67 would be unfair to be Student B. The College decided it would be more fair for students to outsource the processing of electronic payments instead of mandating an average amount.

Although Visa cards are no longer suitable for paying fees from student accounts, Ragan said they can still be used with deposits for student Gold Club Cards because the system involved with that process is different.