Financial aid disbursement card company sued

This+is+the+current+Cerritos+College+Falcons+card+from+Higher+One.+The+Falcon+card+is+given+to+students+currently+receiving+financial+aid.

Wilmer Vargas

This is the current Cerritos College Falcons card from Higher One. The Falcon card is given to students currently receiving financial aid.

Sarah Niemann and Sarah Niemann

Ventura College student Sherry McFall filed a class action lawsuit against Higher One and Bancorp Bank. Higher One is the company that Cerritos College and at least 520 other colleges use for their financial aid disbursements.

She accuses Higher One of automatically opening accounts as well as charging students with multiple hidden fees.

According to Shoba Lemoine, media relations director for Higher One, students have more than one way to receive their financial aid.

“Direct deposit into your personal account or open a Higher One account. It is faster to have Higher One (account) because we handle finances so you get your disbursement the same day.”

According to the April 24 case document, “Higher One deceives students about these fees and does not adequately disclose these fees before or after a Higher One account is opened, moreover the fees are not reasonably avoidable.”

The document also addressed the 50-cent PIN based transaction fee as being hidden.

Even though the card is a debit card, Higher One charges students when they make a debit transaction, which is not a charge you would find with bank accounts from other financial institutions.

According to an Aug. 1 press release, Higher One is making some changes to the PIN based fees. Those fees will no longer be charged to the FLEX and Premier accounts, but the fee will still apply to the basic OneAccount.

Lemoine, talked about ways to avoid the fee, “Students can easily use their accounts for free by using swipe and sign.”

Swipe and Sign is a campaign that urges students to make credit transactions with their Higher One card, instead of debit transactions.

Kim Westby, Dean of Student Support Services, discussed how Cerritos College spreads awareness about the Swipe and Sign Campaign.

“Most of our communication to students is electronic, so we provide links in our emails to the students.”

The fees are listed on the Higher One website. When students log in to their Higher One account online, they can access the fee schedule at the bottom of every page.

According to Lemoine, the fees have always been easy to find. “We’re not like a big bank (the founders) Miles (Lasater) and Mark (Volchek) wanted to make banking easier… not only do we list out the charges, but it tells you how to avoid them.”

McFall could not be reached for comment.