Higher One’s Facebook page, despite having almost 65,000 “likes,” is full of vocal criticism. A recent post, in which Higher One asked fans what they considered the best Valentine’s Day gift, prompted a dozen people to respond that they’d like to finally get their refunds.
Higher One’s Facebook page, despite having almost 65,000 “likes,” is full of vocal criticism.
A recent post, in which Higher One asked fans what they considered the best Valentine’s Day gift, prompted a dozen people to respond that they’d like to finally get their refunds.
Higher One is the controversial company behind Portland State’s PSUOne debit card/ID and PSU’s default distributor of student financial aid since 2004. It distributes aid to 6.2 million students nationwide.
Its contract with PSU expires in October 2014, but the renegotiation process is already underway.
Darin Matthews, formerly an adjunct faculty member in PSU’s School of Business Administration, was recently hired to oversee contracts and procurement at PSU and is overseeing the contract negotiation with Higher One. Matthews specializes in government contracting.
Matthews provided a rough timeline for the renegotiation, explaining that a significant early step is for the Associated Students of Portland State University senate to consider contract options at its March meeting. In April 2014, Higher One will be notified whether the current contract will be renewed or terminated.
Matthews already has opinions about what Higher One could improve.
“I think they could do better with service delivery,” he said.
Matthews says the next step in the process will be for PSU to consider the senate’s recommendations on the matter in March.
“I’m looking forward to their next meeting,” Matthews said.
Marlon Holmes, vice president of ASPSU, is a member of the committee working on the Higher One research. Holmes is unsure whether there is a better option than Higher One for distribution of aid to the student body.
PSU has actually negotiated one of the best contracts with Higher One in the nation, Holmes said. It eliminated many of the fees that Higher One still has in place with other schools, he explained.
This is because of the actions of previous student governments. In 2009, the last time the contract was renegotiated, predatory fees were eliminated after students organized boycotts and initiated feedback.
Right now the committee doesn’t offer any definitive statements, but the student senate will formally consider contract options in March.
“We want to leave a recommendation for the next group of student senators,” Holmes said.
“I know it seems like a hard company to deal with,” Holmes said. “When you look at it, we really do have a good contract with Higher One.”
Holmes pointed out that it’s not an easy or smooth process distributing aid to nearly 20,000 students, no matter how you look at it.
Higher One is frequently in the news for shady business practices. In August 2012, Higher One was ordered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to pay back $11 million in illegal fees charged to students nationwide.
Last week, the University of Montana student newspaper, the Montana Kaimin, reported that a federal investigation had been launched into Higher One’s practices at the school.
Scott Gallagher, director of communications at PSU, previously told the Vanguard that PSU saves $400,000–500,000 per year by using Higher One’s services to distribute aid.