Lane student leaders are lobbying the state legislature to pass a bill preventing companies that handle financial aid payments from deducting disciplinary charges and fees from student accounts.
The House Consumer Protection and Efficiency Committee held a hearing about Oregon H.B. 4102 Feb. 4.
In its introductory form, the bill would alter the business model for financiers like Higher One, the finance company that acts as a middle-man between the federal lenders and Lane’s student borrowers.
The bill would also forbid colleges and universities from entering into contracts with firms that fail to meet new standards.
Higher One has been criticized by Lane students for charging debit-card fees for non-credit transactions, ATM fees and overdrafts. Students with Higher One debit-cards are charged 50 cents per debit transaction, while credit transactions that require a signature are fee-free.
ASLCC legislative director Sara Shepherd attended the Feb. 4 hearing. She said the individuals testifying against the bill were pressed hard by members of the committee, whom she said seemed to be more sympathetic to the students paying the administrative fees.
“(The committee members) were really bringing out the student perspective, and standing up for students — so that was nice to hear.”
OSA Lane campus organizer Brittany MacPherson said it feels like Higher One doesn’t care about students as much as it should.
Current OSA legislative director Mario Parker-Milligan sat on Lane’s selection committee in 2012
that recommended the college select a contract with Higher One in lieu of Sallie Mae, when Parker-Milligan was serving his second year as ASLCC president.
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“These companies aren’t here to really serve us,” Parker-Milligan said during the selection process. “They’re here to make money.”
Higher One client relations specialist Lauren Perry said students with Higher One debit cards are required to acknowledge their fee schedule.
“We have a lot of transparency that’s very straightforward and educational when it comes to the disclosure of our fees,” Perry said. “We want to make sure students are aware of certain fees students might incur because of certain behaviors prior to choosing that optional checking account that Higher One offers.
“But that’s just one option for them. If they have a banking relationship with a local credit union, or a national bank, the choice is there for it go into that account as well.”
Perry said Higher One’s practices are similar to those of comparable banks and also fall in line with federal requirements.
“It’s always free. Students will never be charged to receive 100 percent of their money,” Perry said. “That’s required by the Department of Education.”
Last year, Higher One reached a multi-million dollar settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by students. The $15 million preliminary settlement also mandated a change in its business practices.
“The settlement isn’t final, and because of that, we can’t provide more details on it,” Perry said.
What H.B. 4102 will look like if and when it’s passed, and what that could mean for Higher One, is unclear.
“That’s something we’ll have to consider when it happens,” Perry said.
Shepherd said Financial Aid will be a topic of conversation when student leaders travel to Salem on Feb. 11 for Lane’s lobby day.