Privatization and outsourcing have been extremely hot topics during this presidential campaign, with some people in favor and some opposed. But few people are aware of the next wave in privatization; student financial aid. All over the country, and now here in Portland, universities have farmed out their financial aid disbursement services to private companies that have little or no incentive to provide students with reasonable services.
Eighteen months ago the director of Portland State's Office of Business Affairs, Dee Wendler, signed a contract with Higher One, a Connecticut based company that specializes in privatized financial aid disbursement. Under the terms of the contract, all Portland State University students will receive a new identification card which doubles as a debit card. There is no process in place for students to opt out of the new identification card system. In order to receive a financial aid disbursement, PSU students will be required to activate their card, and will be encouraged to sign up for a Higher One checking account.
At two student forums this afternoon members of the student body, and the ASPSU (PSU's student government organization) expressed strong reservations about the new system. Representatives from the administration and the bank fielded questions related to these concerns, but by and large the students were not reassured.
The ASPSU is implementing a boycott of Higher One, asking students to opt out of the checking account portion of the program. Meetings are to take place later this week to plan for further tactics.