WKU remains with Higher One after settlement


WKU’s student financial service, Higher One Holdings Inc. and its banking partner, Bancorp Bank, have agreed to pay penalties for their handling of student debit-card fees, according to the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

On Aug. 8, the FDIC announced settlements with both financial institutions, saying Higher One agreed to provide restitution of $11 million to nearly 60,000 students who used Higher One bank cards between 2008 and 2011. The FDIC also imposed an $110,000 civil penalty on Higher One.

Both Higher One and Bancorp Bank were found to charge multiple non-sufficient fund (NSF) fees from one student transaction, allowing accounts to be overdrawn in order to rack up more NSF fees, and collecting fees from future deposits to the students’ accounts, according to the FDIC. 

Higher One spokeswoman Shoba Lemoine said “transparency” and “financial literacy” are very important to the company.

Lemoine said students are given one of two options regarding receiving financial aid refunds from the university: either stay with their local bank, or use a Higher One account.

Before agreeing to a Higher One account, students are given the opportunity to scroll through the company’s various fees and fee schedule, Lemoine said. She also mentioned students can access the fees and fee schedule on their website whenever they choose.

“We’re really upfront about our services,” she said.

Higher One accounts have more than a dozen fees, including fees that are less common at other institutions, such as a 50 cent charge for using a PIN instead of providing a signature while making a purchase.

The restitution payments will go to nearly 60,000 students. Lemoine said most recipients have already been notified and received their credit back. Higher One reports it has already refunded $4.7 million in fees as of March 31.

Higher One has card agreements with 520 campuses, according to student advocacy group U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

WKU Bursar Belinda Higginbotham said Higher One was selected through a competitive process, and the FDIC investigation hasn’t swayed the university’s selection of Higher One for refunds.

“We intend for that relationship to continue until the end of the contract term,” Higginbotham said.

WKU’s contract with Higher One will end July 14, 2017.