It often seems like navigating the financial aid system is more difficult than any class offered in college. Tax PINs, FAFSAs, scholarship forms, refund dates and deadlines; they all pile up fast amidst the bustle of classes and work. However, between scholarships, grants, and loans, many students manage to have a surplus of money which gets refunded to them at some point during the semester.
Everyone who gets a refund from Grand Rapids Community College gets a Higher One GRCC Refund Access Card. At first, it seemed convenient, and if you view their website, they offer some compelling reasons why Higher One is a good choice.
However, if you decide your refund is needed in another account, perhaps the one your bills are automatically paid out of, or if you need cash off the card when you aren’t on campus, the convenience ends quite abruptly.
All of Higher One’s free ATMs are on GRCC, Davenport or Aquinas’ campuses, so if you live in Wyoming or Grandville and need to make a quick withdrawal, you’ll be stuck paying the $2.50 ATM fee(plus any fee the ATM owner charges).
Nobody wants to deal with that all the time, lets just have the refund deposited into a different account.
After getting logged into their website, since they don’t seem to have any physical location to go to, you can find the Refund Preference option, where it immediately tells you that you’ll have to wait an extra three days for your refund if you don’t want to use your Higher One debit card.
Three days is a long time to wait in the Information Age, but manageable. However, once you select that option, you’re informed that you must print and mail a form in to their office to confirm the selection. Let’s see, printer, envelope, stamp… skip it, what about a regular electronic transfer into a regular bank account.
Higher One offers some amazingly unhelpful options. Checks can be ordered for $7.95, or a single check can be requested and sent out(in five to seven days). If that’s too slow, feel free to pay the $25 dollar fee for a standard electronic transfer(which is actually fairly standard, but ridiculous, nonetheless).
Fees come standard with corporations, especially financial ones, but not being able to transfer money into the bank account I pay my bills with makes me prefer the days when they just mailed you the check. This new system has come down to waiting on the USPS anyway.
Even the very complicated, often archaic and not particularly kind Internal Revenue Service lets you submit everything online in most cases.
Banks may cry “security” when questioned, but the only reasonable explanation for this ‘90s throwback is simply that Higher One and banks like them want to keep your money, and they’re willing to smile through their teeth while a drawn out bureaucratic process pressures you not to move your money. How is it that the internet is far too risky to transfer money unless you pay the $25 dollar fee, and then it suddenly becomes safe?
The tragedy is GRCCs complacency in its students being funneled into a financial minefield of fees and limitations.
No doubt the college saves money by outsourcing the job to Higher One, and those saving certainly help keep tuition at the reasonable(although rising) $103 per contact hour for residents. But perhaps some pressure could be put on Higher One to expedite check ordering, or provide some other option for transferring money for free, rather than withdrawing the max amount from an ATM on campus and then walking around downtown with a pocket full of cash all day.