That time is here again—the part of enrolling in college that students look forward to the most: financial aid refunds.
Here at GRCC, there are two ways to receive funds: one, through HigherOne’s direct deposit service, or two, GRCC’s preferred way of through the HigherOne Refund Access Card, where the money is stored in HigherOne’s OneAccount student checking.
Prior to refund dates, students are sent the card with instructions on how to activate it, as well as reasons why it can be so beneficial. But what is not made so obvious is information of the rather alarming fees and inconveniences associated with the card—fees that cause question as to whether the card is worth the hassle.
For instance, according to the OneAccount fee schedule on the HigherOne website, there is a 50 cent charge for every debit transaction.
And after nine months of no withdrawals or deposits, there is a fee of up to $19—much more expensive compared to the $5 charge for one year of inactivity on Fifth Third’s student checking account, according to the Fifth Third website.
Another inconvenience of using OneAccount is in order to withdraw cash, it must be done at a HigherOne ATM, or there will be a $2.50 fee.
Students using this card who are unaware of this information are likely spending money where they don’t need to—money they do not have if they received financial aid.
“I had no idea,” said GRCC student Janice Swanson when informed of the fees, although she had read the company’s informative letter that was delivered with her HigherOne card.
According to Jane Mohr, associate director for the cashier’s office, GRCC pays HigherOne for its service, the intention being to make the refund process more convenient for everyone.
“Prior to HigherOne, GRCC printed paper checks for all student refunds,” Mohr said. “The students had the option to pick up their checks on a designated date, or the checks were mailed to them. By using HigherOne, we were able to eliminate long lines, postage, and problems with checks going to the wrong address.”
The service is helpful in this way, but using OneAccount is not the smartest option.
According to the Cahier’s Office page, the “Easy Refund (OneAccount) is by far the fastest and easiest way to gain access to your refund money—literally the same day GRCC releases it.”
This is the strongest benefit students are being told about OneAccount, and this appeals to students, who often want their money as soon as possible.
But the GRCC Cashier Department’s page does not do anything to make students aware of potential fees.
The only way to discover them is through researching the OneAccount on the HigherOne website or by having the fees charged.
It is human nature for people to want access to their money as soon as possible, but the smart choice is to wait two to three days and receive it through direct deposit.
This option is available for selection on the HigherOne website: after registering and logging in with the site, go to the “Refund” tab and select “Refund Preferences”; then select “ACH Transfer,” and enter the bank information it asks you for.
Since students have already received their refunds for this semester, the next option would be to transfer the money to a more hassle free banking system.