February 27, 2012

Goodbye, checks: Student refunds to be issued electronically

If you’re a student due a refund from the university this spring, be advised: The check will not be in the mail. You’ll be getting it electronically.

Each year, the university issues to students more than 11,000 refunds, averaging more than $3,000 each. In some cases, loan disbursements or outside scholarships may have resulted in an overpayment of a bill. In others, charges on the bill have been revised or corrected.

Up to now, the refunds have been issued in check form, meaning that students or their parents have had to cash or deposit them in a bank or other financial institution, either by mail or in person.

To improve the process, the university is working with a company called Higher One to issue refunds electronically. Recipients can choose among options such as direct deposit in a bank account or application of the refund to a Higher One debit card.

Daniel G. Ennis, the university’s senior vice president for finance and administration, and Sarah B. Steinberg, vice provost for student affairs, said that the new system will provide a number of advantages for students: They will have fast, secure access to their money; won’t have to make a special trip to the bank, or worry about lost, stolen or misplaced checks; will be able to receive email or text messages notifying them when their refund has been issued; and will be working with a vendor that is focused on choice, customer service, efficiency and security.

The university also benefits from the new procedure, Ennis and Steinberg said. It will save money by not producing or mailing paper checks, and will eliminate the environmental impact of paper checks. In addition, administration of the refund process will be more efficient, and compliance with federal student aid requirements will be easier to manage.

The electronic refund structure will go into effect in late spring. More information and instructions will become available as the new system is implemented.

Students with questions should contact their school’s Student Accounts Office. Contact information can be found by logging in to their student record located at isis.jhu.edu/sswf.