Plastic comes into play for fee payment

by Dominic Corva

Daily Cougar Staff

University of Houston students will be able to use credit cards to pay their fee bills beginning next fall.

The university hasn't determined whether the cost to run the service will be absorbed by cuts in other programs or by some other method, but the money will come from the general tuition revenue fund, said Joyce Deyon, UH's director of finance and accounting.

The university will not charge a service fee, nor will student fees be raised to pay the 1.5 percent to 2 percent surcharge the credit card companies will charge, Deyon said.

Master Card and Visa will be accepted over the phone and in person at the Bursar's Office, and the Discover card may be added later, she said.

Students will have the option to pay the full amount of their fee bill or, under the installment plan already in place, half of it, by entering their credit card number. Students will have to go to the Bursar's Office to pay any other fraction of their bill.

During peak days for fee bill payment, phone banks will be set up outside the Bursar's Office, allowing students to dial the Voice Information Processing system from the banks, Deyon said.

UH is trying to publicize the various financial services available by sending out an information sheet with fee bills this semester, she said.

"Consistency is what we have to focus on," Deyon said. "We have a blueprint for success -- we just have to keep it up."

Although some students may be relieved by the prospect of credit card payment, UH has long offered alternative methods of fee bill payment for students, university officials said.

Students in a financial pinch have two emergency options: a 45-day short-term loan or a 90-day emergency tuition loan.

Only 310 UH students applied for an emergency tuition loan last fall, amounting to less than 1 percent of the total student population, said Lynne Mink, a spokeswoman for the Dean of Students Office.

The 45-day short-term loan is available to all students who need money to cover university housing charges, food expenses or any other personal financial emergency. Dean of Students Willie Munson must approve all requests of more than $300. Applications must be made at the Dean of Students Office in Room 252 of the University Center.

The 90-day emergency tuition loan can be used to cover both tuition and fees and has no limit on the amount, Mink said.

It is particularly helpful for students whose financial aid package hasn't come through, she said. Applications can be made through VIP or at the Cashier's Office in Room 6 of the E. Cullen Building.

Emergency book loans of up to $250 are available at the Financial Aid Office in Room 31, E. Cullen, Mink said.

The 45-day short-term loan and the book loan are disbursed in cash at the Bursar's Office. The 90-day loan is credited to the student's account to prevent classes being dropped for nonpayment.

The 45-day loan and the book loan carry a $5 service charge and a 12 percent annual interest rate, which is lower than the interest rates of most personal loans and credit cards, Mink said.

The 90-day emergency tuition loan carries a 5 percent annual rate.

Each of these options can be used in conjunction with the installment plan offered on students' fee bills, Mink said. Students can split their bill, paying half on or before the 12th class day with one-fourth due the sixth class week and the final fourth due the 11th class week.

Students are assessed a $15 service charge for each installment, a total of $30 for the semester.

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