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USF to charge 2.5 percent credit card convenience fee, no longer accept VISA for tuition payments

Published: Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Updated: Monday, August 26, 2013 01:08

As the deadline for paying tuition approaches, students paying by credit card may notice a 2.5 percent convenience charge on tuition and fees paid through the OASIS system and that the university no longer accepts VISA cards. 

After subsidizing lost costs to credit card companies — losing more than $800,000 last year in overhead costs, licensing fees and employee costs — the university moved to a percentage-based convenience fee on Aug. 15, that for a student paying tuition and fees for 15 credits a semester could come close to a $160 convenience fee.

Though VISA previously prohibited percentage-based fees, the card now allows it but requires it to be processed as two separate transactions — something USF’s merchant service program does not allow for. 

Assistant Vice President and University Controller Jennifer Condon said the university explored several options — including using a new service program that would allow the university to process the fee as a separate transaction but would charge students at a 2.75 percentage rate and wouldn’t recover the full costs for the university.

“USF opted not to (move to a percentage-based fee) for a long time because VISA is our most widely-used credit card,” Condon said. 

Previously, USF charged a $10 convenience flat fee for credit card use.

“That’s why they kept putting it off, but finally, the subsidy grew to the point where they couldn’t keep putting it off anymore,” Condon said. 

Over the past five years, six other state universities have switched from flat fees to percentage-based fees, ranging from 2 to 3 percent.

Condon said from what she’s seen at those schools, students moved to alternative payment methods. At USF, to avoid the convenience fee, students can pay via e-check online, or via cash, check or money order at the Cashier’s Office.  

But some students such as Serena Stark, a freshman majoring in nursing, are upset about the change.

“How else do they expect us to pay?” she said. “Cash? That’s ridiculous. (Credit cards) are the main way to pay. And everyone has a VISA. It’s a hassle to get another card for tuition.” 

Condon said the university will re-evaluate the percentage and consider reducing it if a major shift in payment methods occur.

Ultimately, she said, the decision was one that was necessary. 

“As difficult as a decision as it was to increase a fee students are paying, the $800,000 was only going toward students who paid by credit card,” Condon said. “In the interest of fairness, that $800,000, instead of subsidizing just credit card costs, could have gone to something else. ... If the President wants to spend close to a million dollars, it should be on something that benefits all students, so that was another factor influencing the decision.” 

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