Starting June 20, CSUN students will have new student fees to worry about, and again, we’re left with nobody to realistically blame.
On that date, students will no longer be allowed to make in-person credit card payments to University Cash Services, which will only be accepting ATM/debit cards, cash, personal checks and money orders. This slight inconvenience, by itself, is something students could probably handle.
Unfortunately, the fun doesn’t stop there. Students will only be allowed to make credit card payments online, and even then will incur a new 2.9 percent processing fee for doing so. To make it worse, students will not be able to use Visa for these online payments, as MasterCard, American Express, and Discover — yes, the card nobody uses — will be the only acceptable payment forms.
All of this is being done because the university has deemed it financially irresponsible to continue footing the bill for something that allows students the privilege of making “free” credit card payments. The university, like an individual business, is forced to pay merchant fees to credit card companies, and during the 2004-05 fiscal year, those fees will total some $900,000, with $600,000 coming straight from CSUN’s General Fund.
A dangerous new trend is beginning to make its presence known: The state of California, unable to pick itself up after a catastrophic budget shortfall, is forcing students to fill in the financial gaps. The state has never spent so little on each CSU student as it currently does, and with the passage of the Klotz Student Health Center fee referendum, it’s clear that when times get tough in California, it’s the students who end up losing services and footing the bill for those losses.
We would have hoped university officials, when announcing this plan, would have been more sympathetic to possible negative student reaction. It would have been nice if administrators had announced in a somber and defeated tone, “Hey, this sucks, and we know it. Let’s try to get through this together.”
But it’s never like that, and we students cannot even begin to understand why a proposal this inconsiderate to students was considered.
To understand how inconsiderate this proposal is to students, let’s commit to a hypothetical. Let’s say Jane Student lives in the dorms, attends CSUN full-time, and has been going to University Cash Services to pay her tuition and housing costs, using her handy-dandy Visa credit card, for quite some time. She doesn’t like using a debit card or checks because her income isn’t as reliable as she’d like it to be.
Here comes June 20, however. Suddenly, her justified fear of online credit card fraud is completely disregarded as she is forced to make her payment online. Then, she realizes she’ll need to sign up for a MasterCard because her Visa card is now useless. After all this, she submits her payment and finds out that because what she owes for the entire academic year — somewhere around $8,000 in total — is so high, that 2.9 percent processing fee certainly adds up fast. Before she knows it, poor Jane is dealing with as much as a $230 fee on top of what she was already paying.
Sadly, this will not be an atypical occurrence for students come next semester. It’ll be entertaining to watch the university handle the inevitable stream of complaints and anger that students will express at payment time next semester. The late announcement of this plan in mid-April will most likely produce a less-than-favorable student reaction once they realize what’s going on. The amount of bounced checks floating through Cash Services alone will be worth the price of admission. And with the recent surge in online financial services exposing the private information of hundreds of thousands of Americans, as in the case of ChoicePoint and Lexis-Nexis, students will keep their fingers crossed as a perfectly-named third-party vendor called SmartPay handles our financial transactions.
Right off the bat, it’s clear this move represents a major step back in the realm of university advancement and technological progress. The indirect punishment of credit card users is an enormous misstep considering that one of the main reasons students use them is because they cannot realistically afford to use debit cards and checks in the first place.
On the surface, the saving of $900,000 by the university is perhaps the only redeeming element of this new Cash Services plan. But even then, the positive aspect of those savings is marred by the presumption that students will never see the applied benefits of that money, as it will likely be lost in the shuffle of a university trying to get back in the black after years of being in the deep, deep red.
Again, it would have been nice if students had been approached with this change by university administrators from a more apologetic position. Instead, the university brags about how they’ll be handling the processing fee for e-checks, something the 11 students who actually use e-checks will be quite grateful for. It’s all an attempt to put a happy face on a total loss, and university officials should be better than that.
In the end, nobody wins, and that’s what the materials promoting this change should be saying. Instead, students are left angry at an entire state for robbing them of yet another service that used to be free, just because their governor and legislators cannot justify new taxation for people who aren’t students.
Unsigned editorials represent the majority view of the Sundial editorial board and do not necessarily represent the views of the entire staff.