Response is neutral to Higher One survey

    The first round of a yearlong student survey on the Portland State Higher One financial aid service has been completed and shows a neutral response.

    Eighty-eight students participated in the PSU OneCard survey that began in August and was administered by student government. Developed and evaluated by student body President Courtney Morse and student Sen. Mary Dinsdale, the survey questioned students about the timeliness and satisfaction students have experienced in accessing their money, the way students use their OneCards and general student experience in dealing with Higher One tools and staff.

    Morse said that considering the vehement reaction Higher One has received on campus in the past, she is surprised at the neutrality of the answers so far. On a question that asks if students have received their aid in a timely matter, 20 said yes, six said no and 27 said they do not receive aid. Morse said the answers do not match up with previous opinions of the service.

    The purpose of the survey was to elicit student opinion of Higher One services, and asks questions ranging from how often students use the card to how satisfied students have been with the services.

“The most important thing ASPSU can do is document student voice for Higher One,” Morse said, “so that we have secure data on how students actually feel.”

    Higher One has been at a center of controversy since its first use at PSU in 2004. Citing lack of student involvement in the decision to use an outside company to handle PSU financial aid, the student government at the time launched a boycott of the service.

    Higher One representatives said they had never seen a response to their service as negative as fs. The company created a website to dispel what they saw as mistruths about their service.

    Morse asked Dinsdale, a graduate student and Associated Students of Portland State University student senator, to analyze the results of the survey to find out which are “statistically significant.” In statistics, "significant" is a term used to identify research results that are probably true. The goal for the Higher One survey is to have all of the questions be significant by .05, which means the results are 95 percent likely to be true.

    Morse said she wants the survey to be as significant as possible so PSU can have data to bring to the table when its contract with Higher One is up for renewal in 2009. She is working to get 200 more student surveys completed by winter term, completing one comprehensive survey each term.

    After all the results are in, Morse said that she will use the survey results as leverage to bring to the administration when the contract is up, if the results show that students do not want Higher One. She said that eventually she wants to work with Higher One to mold it into the best service it can be for students.

    Morse said Higher One is just as anxious to see the results as ASPSU is, but she will not share any of the results with them until the data is clear.

    ”PSU, to them, is a very important school to focus on,” Morse said. “They are waiting to work with us to cooperate.”
    Ana Johns, a former vice president candidate for ASPSU, said that she thinks it would have been helpful for members of ASPSU to educate students more about Higher One before giving students the survey. She said she thinks that the survey is a great idea, but that it did not access enough students or the right information.

    ”It sounds like a satisfaction survey that should have come out of the Office of Financial Aid,” Johns said.

    Earlier this year, after discussion about Higher One had diminished, the newly elected Morse and university affairs Director Amy Connolly announced they would work with Higher One to provide the best service they can for students. This survey is a result of that collaboration, and Morse said Connolly was an important part of the creation of this survey.

    Connolly left her position officially in late September, according to Morse, for reasons Morse said she would like to remain private. Morse said they finished interviews for the vacant position yesterday, and will fill the university affairs director role next week.

    So far only two questions in the survey are considered statistically significant, according to Dinsdale: one regarding timeliness of aid distribution, and the other the level of satisfaction with access to student money. Most of the questions on the survey consider the ways students use the Higher One card.

    One question, split into four parts, directly asks students about their satisfaction with Higher One. It asks if students are satisfied with access to their money, about the helpfulness of the Higher One staff, students’ ability to navigate the website, and if the Higher One personnel are accessible to students. Morse said the survey will not be altered for the next round.

    Dinsdale said that this survey was mostly used as a base for the other surveys. To make the results more significant, she said they will need to alter the methods of sampling by increasing the number of participants and sampling size. She said that because of resource issues and the time it would take to survey so many students, ASPSU is considering putting part of the survey online. Dinsdale said that could affect the significance of the survey.