Tuition due early with paperless payments

Amye Buckley

This year when students leave for semester break their bills must be paid in full. The University business office has instituted a new policy requiring full payment on all student accounts by the next working day after finals, Dec. 17.

The consequence for students who do not pay by Dec. 17?

“They will get dropped from their classes if they haven’t paid 100 percent,” said Alicia Hughes, student account manager. “There’s an automatic drop process through the system.”

Hughes said that as long as students have pending financial aid in the full amount, meaning it has been authorized or a memo has been placed on their account, they will be considered paid.

However, if a paid student incurs additional expenses, such as books, other bookstore charges, parking tickets and any other fees, these fees will be due on a weekly basis.

“Once they go to pick up their rental books,” Hughes said. “If they pick them up on Monday, they can be dropped if they have the balance on their account from their rental books on Friday.”

The first drop date is Dec. 18, and during the month of January students can be dropped weekly for any unpaid amount on their account. Administrators recommend that students keep careful watch over their bills by logging on to Lionet and checking their balance weekly.

The business office chose to make the transition now to phase in the system, because of the way financial aid is packaged.

“It’s packaged 100 percent and then it’s split in half – half for fall, half for spring so they’re covered,” said Linda Eis, interim treasurer. “If someone was covered for fall, they’re going to be covered for spring.”

Students on a ‘full-ride’ whether from scholarships or state and federal aid may not need to worry, but students with out-of-pocket school expenses will need pay now or sign up for the Tuition Pay program through Sallie Mae. With the end of the 50/50 payment plan and paper bills Tuition Pay gives an option to students who want bills for their tuition, books and board to be broken into a payment plan.

Students who signed up for the plan by Dec. 1 will have five payments, with the first payment due when the student enrolls in TuitionPay. Students who sign up before Jan. 1 will have four payments.

TuitionPay is not a loan and accumulates no interest. Southern has a link on its Web page and there are forms available in the business office. Students can sign up at the cashier’s window and they will take the first payment and send it in, but students are responsible to set up the account for the full amount of their bill, including books.

Eis recommends that students estimate and pre-pay $7 per credit hour for books. “They can’t have charges of $2000 and enroll for $500 with Tuition Pay,” Eis said.

Administrators say the pay deadline for next year’s fall semester will also change to sometime in July, moving the priority deadline for student FAFSAs up to April 1.Eighty-five percent of students on campus have some kind of federal aid according to Kathy Feith, assistant director of Financial Aid, said the change could actually benefit students. State and federal funds are dispersed on a first-come-first-served basis so by meeting the new deadlines students may be able to benefit.

“Who can’t benefit from a little extra free money?” Feith said. “We decided that to benefit the students as well as to make sure that we could have their aid processed we’re going to comply with the state deadline which is April 1 [for the fall 2008 semester].”

The deadline for aid for the spring semester is past and the payment date is approaching, but even after the priority date students can still apply for aid.

“There’s no real deadline that you can’t apply,” Feith said. But she cautions that students need to keep an eye on their rolling account.

“The key here will be is if you pay and then go to the bookstore and charge a book – you need to be sure that you’re paying as you’re going,” she said.

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Students who want to sign up for TuitionPay can sign up at the business office when they present their first TuitionPay installment in person or they can log onto the Web site at www. Tuition Pay.com or call 800-635-0120. After the students are set up on the TuitionPay system it takes over billing the student and channeling student payments to the school.