It’s 8:30 on a rainy morning in August, a week before fall classes are set to begin. The third floor hallway in the Enrollment Services Building is filled with students lined up from one end of the hall to the other, many of them soaking wet from the rain. What has so many students gathered in one place at such a relatively early time of the day, in spite of the inclement weather? One of our planet’s greatest motivators, of course: money.
That was the scene last August on the fall semester’s first day of financial aid rebate check disbursement, a scene that is likely to repeat itself in just a few weeks (hopefully minus the rain), because it repeats itself every August and January. By the end of the day, the Bursar’s Office had distributed over 1,000 rebate checks. Over the course of each school year, the Bursar’s Office disburses more than 20,000 such checks; some of these checks are mailed to students at their request, but the vast majority are handed out in person at the Bursar’s Office.
However, that may all be changing soon. For the past few months, the Bursar’s Office management team has been looking into making the rebate check disbursement process electronic. We are pursuing a model that will enable students to either continue receiving paper checks in the mail or have their financial aid rebate funds electronically transferred into their bank account. If they choose the latter the switch would be simple. All students would need to do is visit a secure website, consent to receiving their rebates electronically, and enter their bank account information.
We are targeting implementation of the electronic disbursement for no later than the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, with the possibility of having it in place for some portion of the 2012-13 school year. It is something that many other schools – including several of our fellow USM institutions – are already doing. Once we begin marketing the program, we are hopeful that students will opt to receive their money electronically, since that method will give them access to their funds sooner and save them a trip to the bank to deposit their check. Either way, the long lines of August and January will soon be a thing of the past at the Bursar’s Office.