WCU “Cuts the Fat”

Starting April 1, 2008 there will be a new payment system at Western Carolina. WCU is switching their online payment plan to PayPath Tuition Service, which accepts MasterCard, Discover, and American Express but will no longer take Visa cards. tarting April 1, 2008 there will be a new payment system at Western Carolina. Nancy Morgan, bursar in the WCU controller’s office, said that WCU decided to change the online payment option because it was paying excessive amounts of money to process student’s online credit card payments. “The main reason why Western was choosing to switch plans was because the university, as of last year, paid $180,000 on credit card fees,” Morgan said. She also said that because WCU was trying to “cut the fat” or reduce costs, the university decided to change the online payment system. Now, instead of the university, students will be charged a 2.75 percent nonrefundable convenience fee for each payment made on PayPath.For example, if a student makes a payment of $1,500 on their account, their card will be charged $1,541.25. WCU will receive only the $1,500 owed on the student’s account and TouchNet will receive the remaining fee. “In the past Western has paid the amount, but now students will have to pay the fee,” Morgan said. Because the university did not want to stop online payments all together but still wanted to reduce costs, WCU teamed up with TouchNet, an online payment system which caters to over 700 colleges and universities,” Morgan said. TouchNet will enable Western to continue to offer the online payment option without extra cost for the university. “We don’t want to stop credit card payments all together,” Morgan said. “That’s why we chose to use PayPath.” Because Western is changing to PayPath, Visa will no longer be accepted meaning students who pay with Visa will no longer be able to use the online system. PayPath requires a 2.75 percentage from each credit card charge. PayPath does not accept Visa since it requires a set amount, not a percentage.Bianca Philemon, a sophomore at WCU and her dad, Rick Philemon, gave her thoughts about the new payment option.”I think it’s ridiculous that the school is not accepting Visa when most the people I know only have Visa,” Bianca said. “This is going to be an unnecessary inconvenience.”Bianca said that telling students that the school is changing its payment options to better students was only a pre-tense for what they truly want to do with the money. “I think that saying ‘this process is cost affective and for the better of the students’ is only a diversion from why they are really changing the payment,” Bianca said. “I think they plan to use the money for construction because in the long run they will be making more money the quicker they expand.”Rick Philemon, a retired Air Forceman of the United States Air, disagreed with the change in online payments. “That’s going to be a problem for me,” Philemon. “Instead of being able to pay last minute, I’ll have to pay by mail, which means I’ll have to pay by check in advance.”He too believed that the school was causing a great inconvenience to WCU parents. Philemon not only believed it to be an inconvenience but also unheard of.”They shouldn’t take the fee and put it on the parents,” Philemon said. “There is not another single business that I know of that passes the service and credit fee on to the consumer. If I go to SEARS I pay the same amount as if I paid cash. The store takes care of the fee.” Morgan contacted Visa, inquiring whether they would change their policy. Visa says that they did not plan to change. For those that pay with Visa, there are alternative payment plans that students can use. “Students can still pay with check or cash at OneStop, or they can sign up for TuitionPay Plan to break their tuition into affordable payments,” Morgan said. “They will take eCheck, MasterCard, Discover and American Express online only, but as of fall of this year, TuitionPay will no longer take Visa.”The plan offers students the ability to make payments online by eCheck or credit card (excluding Visa), by mail with monthly statements, or through automatic deductions from student’s checking or savings account.Philemon said that asking students to pay with cash was not safe.”If the parents give the students a ton of cash it unsafe for the students to walk around with that much cash on them,” Philemon said.WCU is not the only university to change to a new system. Colleges and universities throughout North Carolina will be switching to the new payment plan. Morgan listed several universities including UNC State University and UNC Chapel Hill that have already switched to the new plan. She also said that UNC Greensboro will be changing over to the system this year.Although the new payment option may be inconvenient to some, WCU has chosen the most practical option. It will continue to allow the convenience of online payment while still allowing WCU to redirect their resources to better the classroom and its students.