Recently, I found myself in a predicament that many students at UNM face during their academic tenure.
A financial hold had been placed on my account, and I needed to make a payment to the Bursar’s Office in order to have it removed. This seemed like a relatively simple task; I needed only to log on to their website and pay through my debit card, and all would be well. Little did I know, this was not the case.
The Bursar’s Office partners with a third party payment processor, who charges a “service fee” of no less than 2.75 percent of the total payment. For me, this amounted to around $9. It may be a drop in the bucket to some, but there is an underlying intent with this maneuver. The fee can be avoided by paying in person or through an electronic check, both methods that require more time, effort and information than merely typing in a card number.
In fact, unlike so many other university institutions, the Bursar’s Office is located off-campus, at Perovich Business Center, Suite 1100, on the southeast corner of Lomas and University Boulevards, according to the office website. This entails either a car ride or a 10-minute walk down a busy road in order to avoid “paying” for making a payment.
In addition, a student looking to avoid the fee now must find a place to either withdraw money from their bank, or obtain a check to be given in person. Both of these options require busy students to take significant time out of their schedule merely to continue having access to class registration and other vital University benefits. Since the fee-avoidance option entails so much more time expenditure, it is likely that many students will opt to grit their teeth and pay the fee instead for the sake of convenience.
This, I am sure, is exactly the intention. The third party payment processor wants your money, and they are confident you will give it to them to save time and energy. $9 may not seem like much, but multiplied over thousands of UNM students looking to get rid of their holds, it adds up. It adds insult to injury when students who shell out tens of thousands of dollars and go into years worth of debt in order to obtain an education have these kinds of fees thrown at them.
To make matters worse, the fee does nothing for the University; it heads straight into the pockets of PayPath, the private company handling the mysterious “service fee.”
UNM needs to step up and, frankly, give the students a break. Moving the Bursar’s Office into a more central campus location is a good start, as is accepting cards in person and jettisoning the partnership with PayPath.
To a college student, money is pivotal and often scarce. Extorting more of it because of student needs hinging on a lack of Bursar account holds is shameful and wrong. It is time for a change.