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MasterCard Student IDs Incite Boycott and Walkout: Debates about Privacy and Privatization

PSU has signed a contract to change all of its student campus id cards to MasterCards. There is no opt-out, and students are mad. A boycott has been announced, and a rally is planned for this Tuesday (November 23).
Over 2,000 students at Portland State University are organized in a boycott and prepare for a walkout in protest of their new Campus ID Cards. The debit cards, emblazoned with a MasterCard logo, were mailed to students this week from the Connecticut-based "virtual bank" HigherOne. Students aim to have their university's contract with Higher One terminated.

The cards will be used as a way to disburse financial aid monies and are seen by many as a startling step in the commercialization of the university. Due to budget crunches, universities nationwide face constant pressure to downsize and save money, and corporate sponsorship can appear as a panacea -- famous recent examples include UC Berkeley selling off the rights to its scientific research and Boise University naming its sports facility "Taco Bell Arena". Yet branding all students with a MasterCard and the outsourcing of student financial aid is a relatively new trend.

The decision to sign a contract with Higher One was made without any attempt to involve students in the process, including student representatives and organizations.

"Financial aid is sacred to many of us," said student Sascha Krader, "It's not like the privatization of other campus areas such as food services. It has a profound effect on student life."

Privacy issues are in the forefront of many students' minds. Without consent of students, and disregarding opposition by student representatives, the university has released all students' names and addresses to the bank, in addition to their date of birth and photograph. Higher One will use this information to distribute the new MasterCard ID Cards and solicit students to use their checking account. Higher One also invites merchants to solicit students through a customer rewards program. This release of information has inspired at least one student to file a lawsuit against the University and has aroused threats of legal action from many other students.

Others worry about "dataveillance" and the use of student tracking information.

"These payment cards enable massive surveillance and control of students. A major point of them is to collect transactional data for marketing," explained Chris Hoofnagle, Associate Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "But they can also be used to control student spending ... by parents, for example."

Many are also disgruntled about the obligation to carry a card they may be opposed to philosophically: some students are upset about the MasterCard logo, while others are upset about HigherOne's affiliation with Diebold, the Ohio-based company most famous for its electronic voting machines.

Students claim that the bank account attached to the cards is low quality: deposits must be mailed to Texas, the "virtual bank" has no branches on the West Coast, and the fee schedule is up to 94% higher than those of local banks, the most notable of which is a $0.50 charge for every pin based transaction. Denise Wendler, the Director of Business Affairs at PSU and the employee responsible for signing the contract, recently stated that if she was a student she would use Direct Deposit over the HigherOne debit account.

Yet students are heavily encouraged to use the bank accounts: the official website, which all students are required to use, calls the accounts "easy refund" and says they are the "recommended" option.

"To get your financial aid disbursed to your own bank account, you have to specify that you don't want the debit account several times during card activation," said student Sam Rutledge, "That's ridiculous and misleading. Serious concerns are raised when our university delivers us to a financial institution whose solicitation tactics are a step below spam marketers."

HigherOne, started by a few recent graduates from Yale, has been in existence since 1999 and has 17 university clients, including Portland State University. According to the HigherOne website, they have handled some 354 million dollars since 2002. Other customers include the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Sam Houston University.

Over 2,000 PSU students have pledged to support the boycott. "We are going all the way with this boycott to get the contract terminated," said student body president Christy Harper, "We are working with legislators and lobbyists at a state and federal level, in addition to working with key groups in our community." The PSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) recently endorsed the boycott, and Harper pledges that "more organizations are on the way." A statewide Day of Action against the cards, with a campus walkout and rally, is planned for November 23.

you can discuss this at the aspsu website (www.pdx.edu/aspsu) or at  http://www.livejournal.com/community/higherone/

homepage: homepage: http://www.livejournal.com/community/higherone/

Yes 19.Nov.2004 23:25



Gag me with automated thinking 20.Nov.2004 16:52

little professor

Truly disgusting. Are there any other ways remaining to completely strip education and the journey to individuation of their meaning?

Boycott Higher One 20.Nov.2004 21:36

Wendy psuwendypdx@hotmail.com

I'm a current student at PSU and I completely support the boycott and definitely will be at the rally. I, for one, am not letting some bank in Texas take care of my financial aid. It's bad enough that they have my name, address, and who knows what other information, but they aren't getting my money for school and banking. Furthermore, it pisses me off more than anything to know that students were not involved in the decision making of this in the first place. I expected a lot more out of PSU and am extremely disappointed. I encourage anyone who's a current student to do direct deposit with your finanacial aid through a LOCAL bank of your choosing, and not through Higher One!

please demand that PSU's 20.Nov.2004 23:03


investigate and determine who among them has received a bribe and/or kickback for this scam!

abuse by credit card 21.Nov.2004 14:05


This seems an extreme example of that they would take such measures. I don't follow the entire thing--that is, about the financial aid part of it. But it seems what they're doing is just trying to stick an ad on you, but also make you use a...product (four-letter word). Me, I have a lot of credit cards, and it's funny to consider that they would monitor transactions for marketing purposes--I mean, what possible benefit could they get when they see that I bought a six-pack, some cheese bread, some peanut butter, some cheese crackers, a hat, a magnet, some pencils, some tea, some "coffee singles" and so on.

Misinformation on both sides 21.Nov.2004 15:02


ASPSU says the fees are "94% higher." That doesn't mean 94 TIMES higher, that means almost twice. Ok, so?

If I go to USbank and I get money out of the ATM, it charges me a $2 "convenience fee."

If I use a debit card in certain store, and I don't make a "minimum purchase" I get dinged for a fee.

If I order checks for my checking account so I don't use the plastic, I get a fee.

ASPSU tells me the "inactivity fee" is $51.00. Actually it's $15.00 and there has to be inactivity for NINE MONTHS. So basically, all you gotta do is buy a soda every now and then to keep it active.

You CAN take the money out of the OneAccount and move it to an account you prefer. That's what I'm gonna do. I'm not using that direct deposit thing, where I gotta send my private bank account info to Higher One and they wire the money in. Nuh-uh. That's MY info and I prefer to keep it all separated.

Fees are everywhere. I don't agree with them, but ASPSU seems to be more worried and upset about the fact that THEY were not consulted, than the actual nuts and bolts of the situation. They are completely convinced that direct deposit is the only way to go, the best way to go - but it carries its own risks.

SOU Fights Privatization of Financial Aid 22.Nov.2004 10:10

S. D. Ryan

Deconstructing Higher One
Financial Aid outsourcing alienates students, faculty, staff, alums

Student Government hosts forum Monday, noon Rogue River Room
Student demonstration in the SU quad Tuesday noon

Southern Oregon University Students Against Higher One have collected over 300 signatures boycotting the new SOUOne i.d. card. The boycott supports over 2000 Portland State University students who will walk out in protest of the card Nov. 23. Southern Oregon and Portland State are test cases for the new i.d. card, which will be implemented across the 7-school Oregon University System if the contract goes through. The mandatory i.d.s will be mailed to SOU students beginning Nov. 23rd, at a cost to the University of $5 per student.

Students claim the new card will increase fees and waiting time for financial aid. Should the students choose not to open an account with Connecticut's Higher One Inc., the company will be able to hold direct deposits of student Financial Aid for up to three business days. Higher One may hold student funds for up to five days before mailing a paper check from its bank in Texas. Commercial banks often make interest lending excess reserves to other banks overnight.

Higher One and the administration claim that outsourcing student aid will save the Universities money at a time when funding has plummeted all around the state. Administrators also argue that giving students a debit card will help them learn to budget.

Students point out the array of fees for use of the card on campus, at “foreign? ATMs, and at point-of-sale terminals that they did not incur with their own private bank accounts and the traditional i.d. It is unclear, for example, whether a student would be charged an overdraft fee if Higher One's inactivity fee put their balance into the negative. Some question the effectiveness of premiums on consumer items as a savings incentive, especially when use of the Higher One debit card comes with a transaction fee. The school gets a percentage of debit card usage fees.

Another concern was contract language requiring the University to make student mailings available for Higher One “service offerings.? The contract states that not only does the University have to make students' electronic and physical contact information available, but that the cost of including company advertising with official University mail will come at the University's expense.

Higher One account executive Casey McGuane says it would take “hours and hours, hundreds of hours? to respond to misinformation surrounding the Higher One i.d. but students feel the obscurity comes from above. Higher One and the administration have repeatedly failed to provide the actual student contract. McGuane recommended an https Web site that was under construction and did not work.

Students feel the process was less than transparent. Administrators sent all-campus emails last Spring inviting students to meetings about the card, but chirpy emails telling students how great their new i.d. would be next year somehow failed to draw any attendance the last week of school before finals and summer break. The deal was closed in the dead of summer after the student government asked for a delay until Fall.

Now that students are back in school, the timing of the deal and the confusing conditions of use of the mandatory card are aggravated by the feeling that their funding and bank accounts have been manipulated. "It's all about choice, which is why I'm so excited," said SOU Director of Business Services Craig Morris in the Nov. 11 Ashland Daily Tidings. "We had a dialogue with the students before we entered the contract.? Students argue the decision was unilateral. Some students don't use campus email.

Students Against Higher One brought the issue back before the student government and were taken to task for not acting before the contract was signed. Senate President Pro-Tem. Randy Johnson asked to see more student support before the ASSOU would get behind the boycott. The students will present the government with the 300+ signatures at their weekly Tuesday meeting just hours after the statewide demonstration against the card at noon.

Faculty and staff support the student boycott. Several instructors have expressed concern that Higher One and the University will try to extend services to payroll. Higher One will already be handling student payroll accounts and language exists in the contract describing optional services for staff. The professors prefer to speak off the record because such services would be subject to contractual negotiation. The faculty union will consider a statement at their next regular meeting.

Service Employees International Union Local 503 Assistant Executive Director Richard Peppers said that the concerns of staff, faculty and students are “very legitimate.? The union represents non-teaching employees at the seven Oregon Universities. Bargaining team members met this weekend to discuss the Higher One situation.

Peppers reports that while the Higher One service agreement has not yet been extended to staff, the union is wary of inclusion as a goal in the longer term. If outsourcing begins to threaten jobs or if the OUS extends Higher One payroll services to staff, “it will definitely become a bargaining issue,? said Peppers.

Portland State University students will travel to SOU to support the statewide boycott. Administration and Higher One representatives will hold an informational forum Monday at noon in the Stevenson Union Rogue River Room. Local elected officials Peter Buckley and Cate Hartzell have heard students' concerns and have expressed interest in attending the forum Monday and the statewide demonstration at noon Tuesday. The SOU fight against Higher One has gotten national attention on the US Independent Media Center Web page  http://indymedia.us/en/index.shtml and in the PSU Vanguard.

While PSU and Southern Oregon University have already signed off on the five-year contract, students hope to show enough resistance to Higher One that the company will find it profitable to take its business to a different state. At the very least, administrators will have a disincentive to privatize services in the dead of summer while students, staff and faculty are gone.

e-mail::  resolutionvideo@yahoo.com

Student Body President Wind Woods looks unhappy.
Student Body President Wind Woods looks unhappy.

Like Colby Says.... Misinformation 09.Dec.2004 14:21


Attacking a company with skewed and wrong information makes your objective - student participation in decision making - more obscure and harder for people to recognize. From the site they've put up www.truthabouthigherone.com it seems like the company itself does a good job and many students like its services. If you don't want to try them, don't - but baseless attacks using misinformation only work for GWB's campaign...

I attend East carolina University in North Carolina 04.Dec.2005 14:27

Outraged student caaall@yahoo.com

Higher one has come to our school and I am outraged about it!!! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!!!!!!!

 link to www.theeastcarolinian.com

It is unreal that a university can just do this!!!!!!

I can't believe that Higherone says that we have a choice ....THERE IS NO CHOICE....

 link to www.theeastcarolinian.com

Also go to www.partyeastcarolina.com and go to the lounge thread and look for the higherone thread.

There is no chosing 04.Dec.2005 14:33


There is no choice of using them or not if your school choices them they choice it for you!!!!!