If you have been following the Student Financial Aid Refund Disbursement news over the past two years, then I am sure you have seen the U.S. PIRG Report: The Campus Debit Card Trap, GAO Report: College Debit Cards, and a number of other studies that have been released regarding student aid disbursements on campus debit and prepaid cards. Well, in August 2014, Consumer Reports published an analysis on Campus Banking Products, looking at nine financial firms to compare their terms and calculate their average costs – from checking accounts to prepaid cards. We felt this analysis was definitely worth sharing.
I have been involved in the campus refunds and financial aid refund disbursement market for quite some time and am part of the development team for Heartland Campus Solutions refund disbursement products (yes … you can say I’m biased, but just keep reading). I have also been closely following what has been going on in Washington as well as deeply engaged (along with others in our organization) in the reports, meetings, and hearings. I can understand the concerns of groups such as the GAO, CFPB, and PIRG. They want to make sure students are not being taken advantage of and are provided with clear, honest, and cost-effective options to access their financial aid disbursements. And so do I.
When we developed our disbursement solution, we asked ourselves, “What will be the biggest benefits to the students, the schools, and the higher education industry?” We identified three areas that we deemed essential – low fees, transparency, and true student choice. Of course there were others, such as ensuring that students’ funds were protected, providing convenient access to their monies, giving students a simple online tool to manage their refund disbursement account, and so on. We have stayed true to these areas from the beginning, and will continue to stay true to them.
Let’s face it. Being a student can be tough when it comes to finances. Whether you are going from high school directly to college, took a couple of detours along the way, or are finishing your degree while working full time, money can be tight. We wanted to make sure that whatever disbursement option the student selected, they had conventient access to their funds and options. Heartland included an alternative disbursement option for a prepaid card with fair, reasonable and very few fees. Our product has always had the lowest, transparent fees in the market, whereas others are only “free” if certain requirements are met. We have maintained the fewest and will continue to offer the lowest fees in the marketplace.
In reading the Consumer Reports analysis, we validated what we have always known to be true – compared to the leading provider, Heartland’s prepaid card product has 85% fewer fees. And, based on the spending levels defined in this report, Heartland Campus Solution’s fees are 9 times lower than the provider with the highest fees for a moderate user. The average student using the card moderately pays $95.00 each year in fees with the leading provider compared to only $10.20 per year with Heartland.
I, along with Heartland, will continue to stay closely engaged in the industry, meetings, and current events associated with financial aid disbursements to ensure that students and schools are provided with a fair product at a fair price. It’s the foundation upon which our company was built and what will continue to support our growth for many, many years to come.
To view the full Consumer Reports analysis on Campus Banking products, click here.