Colleges re-examine credit card tuition payments

Nowadays, credit cards are used to pay for everything from small items at convenience stores to major expenses like college tuition.  According to the American Council on Education, 56 percent of all dependent undergraduates carry at least one credit card, with one in four using it to pay tuition.  But some universities are revising rules that formerly allowed students to pay their tuition with a credit card. 

One school that has taken action to deter credit card tuition payments is Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.  In 2005, BYU paid over $900,000 in credit card fees for tuition purchases and insurance premium payments.  The projected cost for 2006 would have topped $1 million, but the school changed its policy.  BYU now requires that students pay tuition or make loan payments by electronic check, cash, a paper check, or accept a 2.75 percent fee for paying with a bank card.  Other campus purchases can still be made via a credit card without a surcharge.

BYU students have primarily switched to using electronic checks since the policy was enacted in October 2005.  BYU treasurer Richard White reported that before the surcharges, 30 percent of students paid tuition with checks and 70 percent paid with bank cards.  Now, 80 percent of students pay with either paper of electronic checks, while around 20 percent still pay with a card and accept the 2.75 percent fee.  

Also in the state, Utah State University and Snow College both restrict credit card payments for tuition.     

But not all Utah schools are against credit card payments.  At the University of Utah, Steffany Forrest, the assistant manager of income accounting and student loan services, said a significant amount of student transactions occur via credit card. The university still permits credit card payment for tuition and even suggests using a credit card if students are unable to meet the tuition deadline. 

The University does not plan to change those rules.  Forrest explained the school has been taking credit cards since 1997, and based on current demand, it does not intend to change its policies.

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Updated: 01-19-2019