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Raw DS Article: “Where’s Your Pride?”

September 8, 2008

Throughout my life, I have had the opportunity to amass a collection of several different types of cards. I’ve got a rather large collection of safety cards from airlines (obtained legally, of course), several decks of playing cards, as well as the business cards of those I have met and interacted with in my somewhat-professional and personal life. This summer I was dismayed and quite aggravated when I received another card in the mail that was added to my collection of bad cards: the “UND Pride Card” courtesy of our friends in Student Account Services, which was known prior to the last series of “enhancements” of student “service” as the Business Office (those of us upperclassmen and graduate students might remember a happy time when we could pay tuition with a Visa card and not be charged a “Convenience Fee” for doing so).

There have been many articles over the past few years on the issue of credit card debt and financial mismanagement at the hands of college students in our country. For most students, college is the first time in our lives where we don’t have our parents or guardians breathing down our necks 24/7. We also have increased freedom and opportunity to apply for credit cards whenever we feel like it. Our lack of experience in money management and the relative ease of self-perceived “free” money of a credit card often leads to financial disaster for college students. Credit card debt is an issue for many of my friends and classmates, and one that is, when APR is factored in, often more costly in the long run than student loans.

Over the years, the data on this growing problem has been well known and featured in many national news stories. That said, the idea of placing yet another high-fee debit card in the hands of University of North Dakota students would seem like a stupid idea that makes little sense whatsoever. Unfortunately, the administration of this school seems to do very little that makes sense when it comes to adequately providing proper service to its students. The fiasco surrounding the implementation of the UND Pride Card by Student Account Services is only the most recent iteration of a larger problem that pervaded during former President Kupchella’s administration: that of treating students as a commodity and not a customer or learner.

The decision to implement the Pride Card was unethically made with a company that has logged numerous complaints from university students around the United States. What is worse is the fact that it was done with little-to-no student input. The higher ups at Student Account Services have said in e-mails to several concerned students that they made a presentation to Student Government. It was never approved by the senators (inasmuch as I could see in the StuGov minutes online) and was presented as something that was already decided. Even Student Body President Tyrone Grandstrand and Vice President Mike Crenshaw have expressed their doubts about the program. There is no official way to opt out of receiving the card, and those that prefer to use other, already established options of receiving refunds from the University have found the process to be purposely convoluted and difficult. Student Account Services themselves have announced that they are doing the best they can to ensure that their name remains an oxymoron by stating that they won’t be in any rush to process refund checks (which they are still required to do) until the maximum allowed time (21 days) has progressed, regardless of whether or not a student fully announces their intent to not activate their Pride Card.

The typical reasoning behind outsourcing services within an organization usually comes with the intent of reducing costs by cutting the amount of work that must be done from within. This cost cut is almost always accomplished through the reduction of staff and work hours and is often then passed on to the customer through lower costs or investor through higher profits. As UND is a non-profit organization, the latter should not be a consideration. UND students (the customers) have yet to see a reduction in costs from any of the measures the Business Office/Student Account Services have taken in recent years. We didn’t see a $70 per student reduction in fees from the $800,000 savings the office accrued from making the switch

As someone who had experienced the mismanagement of the university at the hands of President Kupchella’s administration first-hand during the four years of my undergraduate career at UND, I hope and truly believe that President Kelly will begin to reverse the downward spiral of the last ten years. While he faces a daunting task, reversing the unfriendly and unethical decision to sign a contract with Higher One and providing students with yet another opportunity to be taken advantage of by credit card companies.

The administration of the school won’t cancel the contract, however, without input from students. We need to begin speaking out against this program and the card. President Kelly, Vice President Bob Gallager, and the people of Student Academic Services need to be made aware of the fact that we as a student body are not happy with the decision that was made on our behalf without our input or permission. There is at least one Facebook group (“No Thanks, UND Pride Card) and several ways in which we can make our voices heard. Hopefully, this issue can come to a satisfactory resolve, one in which student input is used to adequately gauge what service the school provides to its biggest and best customer base.

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