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Changes in bill-paying options, credit-card processing

June 25, 2010

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University students and their families will see changes and have new options for paying their tuition and housing bills this fall, as a third-party vendor becomes the vehicle through which credit- and debit-card payments can be made on student accounts.

Beginning with the early August tuition bills for fall semester, payments to student accounts may be made:

  • Online using American Express, Discover or MasterCard or by using a debit card; or by using an electronic transfer from a savings or checking account. Visa is not accepted.

  • Online over the semester by enrolling in the WMU installment plan, which, for a $30 enrollment fee, spreads payments over a two- three- or four-payment schedule and allows payments without a convenience fee by using electronic transfer from a savings or checking account.

  • By mail, using a check--but not a credit or debit card.

  • In person at Bronco Express, by using a check or cash--but not a credit or debit card.

The addition of American Express, which replaces Visa on the list of accepted credit cards, is a new measure. Also new is the addition of a convenience fee for credit and debit card transactions.

Until now, the University has processed student account credit and debit card transactions, incurring substantial service costs from card companies. Those costs become part of WMU's operating budget and are ultimately passed on to students through tuition.

To keep online credit and debit card payments as part of the mix, the University has contracted with TouchNet to handle payments by credit and debit card. That company accepts the three approved credit cards and debit cards and will charge a convenience fee that is equal to 2.75 percent of the transaction or $3--whichever is larger. That fee goes directly to TouchNet and does not result in any additional revenue to the University.

Students using the online bill payment site this fall will see little change to the site, but if they choose to use a credit or debit card, they will be informed of the TouchNet charge associated with their payment decision. Students are still able to pay online with no charge by using an electronic transfer from a checking or savings account.

"We know how important the ability to pay with a credit card is to our students and families so we've been exploring ways to keep this part of our payment options," says Patti VanWalbeck, director of accounting services. "Many of our families are familiar with convenience fees charged when credit cards are used at other universities and have asked if they will incur similar fees here. We've told them it's coming, and now that time is here."

Among other Michigan universities, some schools do not allow any tuition or housing payments to be made using credit or debit cards. Others that do accept credit- or debit-card payments are using service companies like TouchNet to keep the associated service costs off the institution's budget.

The changes and convenience fees apply only to WMU charges loaded to student accounts. There will be no impact on use of credit or debit cards to make other WMU purchases at locations like the WMU Bookstore or Miller Auditorium.

VanWalbeck said the new structure was finalized just as beginning students were starting orientation. Orientation messages have been altered to include the new payment information.

"Our effort over the coming weeks will be to alert all of our students and families about the changes and the range of options they have to pay their student accounts," says VanWalbeck.

More information

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400