Credit cards and students go together like peas and carrots

Dalhousie University is taking away students’ ability to pay for tuition and related expenses by credit cards in order to save 1 million dollars’ in fees.

Great idea.

Make it harder for students to pay for college.

Now, I’m all for universities saving money.  When universities run short in funds, it affects us all—students and taxpayers, who help foot the bill for post-secondary education.

However, whether you’re a wealthy student or whether you scrape by, paying by credit card is an essential option.

Sometimes those student loans just aren’t there in time.

Most students don’t have an extra 5,000 K sitting around in the bank account unless they’ve been lucky enough to score a summer job at Michelin or some place that doles out more than minimum wage.  And even if you do have that kind of scratch, there are other bills begging for money, from your typical life bills like rent and groceries as well as education related expenses like laptops and books.

Paying online also saves time.  Instead of waiting in long lines when thousands of students are trying to get their loan forms authorized, using a credit card gives you the option of paying online in an instant.

As well, some students pay by credit card because they receive points and other goodies which will then go towards plane tickets, groceries, or gas.  All good stuff when your costs are 20,000 bucks and your income is 6,000.

We all don’t live down the road from the university, making cheques difficult to use.  We live in a time of instant transactions and a student arriving from China might need their parents, from half a globe away, to pay their tuition and residence costs.

Of course, financial institutions are also to blame.  I’m well aware of bank fees and transaction costs.  After all, sometimes I have to pay 35 cents to use my banking card if it’s at a small store.  And we all know about those 5 dollar minimum debits.   Unfortunately, money isn’t free… we have to pay to use it.  I’m all for profit and free venture, but having to pay to use your own money when you receive miniscule interest on your bank account just seems wrong on so many levels, except when the businesses are making billions in profits.

So part of the problem lies with the banks for charging businesses for those transaction fees (and perhaps the customers too for demanding free things and points on their credit cards.)

But also, part of the fault lies with governments who have not funded Nova Scotia universities adequately, making institutions penny pinch in every which way in order to recoup costs from declining enrollments, crumbling infrastructure, etc etc.  For years, students have been absorbing these costs through higher tuition and fees, until we’ve been forced to take out student loans that look like mortgages and make it difficult to obtain loans for needs like cars after graduation.  (And for some of us those things are needs when we don’t have public transportation at our disposal.)

But back to Dalhousie.  Dalhousie should also realize that students need the option of being able to use plastic.  While universities are public institutions, they’ve also adopted a very business-like mentality, meaning costs are raised any which way: through increased tuition, campus stores… and even the book store which marks up books, even used books that are traded in at the end of the year (not to totally point the finger at Dal, but the book stores I dealt with at Acadia certainly did.)

For years senior administration at public universities have been pocketing huge salaries.  I’m not willing to put in words what I would do to earn 350,000 per… but I do know I wouldn’t be howling for a cost of living increase every year.  The salaries of university administrations remind me of the huge bonuses paid to CEOs of companies begging for government relief.  It’s no wonder I saw my university president at a hockey game sporting a fur coat.  Out of touch with students?  By a long shot!

I suppose all around, this problem brings into relief the very problems facing post secondary education today.  There just isn’t enough money.

Unfortunately it is students and society as a whole who bear the brunt of this problem—students for having such huge debt loads and society, which loses so much money to the increasing problem of student debt: debt reduction, interest during interest-free periods, inability of students to make large purchases like cars and houses after graduation, decreased birth rate because graduates can’t afford children… and I’m sure the list could go on and on.

But whatever happens down the road, students and parents need that option of flicking over their credit card to pay a bill in the thousand dollar range.

I know I sure did!

With buildings like this, no wonder tuition is high.

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