Higher One, PSU roll out new IDs

Despite student groups’ efforts to delay the implementation of the new student ID cards, the cards will begin to ship today or Wednesday, according to Dee Wendler, director of business affairs.

Kinks still need to be worked out – still in the works are negotiations to abolish the $.50 ATM fee, a committee to discuss changes to the Higher One web site, and adequate access for hearing and vision impaired students – but students can expect the new cards to arrive in the mail as soon as the end of this week.

The new IDs can double as a debit card and are handled by the Connecticut-based company Higher One, which will also handle all future financial aid disbursements.

Three disbursement options are available to students: a delayed paper check, electronic transfer into a current bank account, or into a checking account provided by Higher One.

Student government and other student groups aim to boycott the Higher One checking account, called the One Account, by encouraging students not to activate it.

"We have been mobilizing the campus," said Tony Rasmussen, communications director for student government. "Students that have never stood up and yelled before are doing it now."

Wendler’s main concern is still that financial aid disbursements remain "a smooth process for [students]." Because each card must be activated before a method of disbursement can be chosen, she is concerned that students, while trying to avoid activating the checking account, will not activate the card at all.

Students will not receive financial aid if the card is not activated.

"Activation does not mean activating the debit card feature," Wendler said, adding that it is also means to confirm that the card was received.

Student government has recently changed the language of the boycott materials in an effort to make it clearer that the main goal is to discourage students from using the One Account, not to reject the entire student ID program.

Higher One gains revenue only if students use the One Account, so if a large number of students decline this feature the company’s deal with PSU will no longer be profitable.

Additional efforts have included teaming up with other student groups to explore possible legislative and legal actions to push Higher One off campus.

"We know it’s going to be a while before we succeed, but we will succeed," Rasmussen said.

Students at other universities have given Higher One a mixed reception, but the schools have also faced problems ranging from empty ATMs to students accidentally tossing out their new cards.

Since PSU announced the program in September, there has been increasing student concern over the university’s agreement with Higher One. In particular, students were angered that they were not included in the development process and that the activation web site for the IDs appears designed to push students into activating the checking account feature.

Higher One claims that the card will make student life easier with better access to financial aid and other on-campus resources.