Almost a year after the Arizona Board of Regents voted to approve a 3 percent increase in tuition and an $80 library fee increase for UA students, students paying tuition with a credit or debit card will now be charged a 2.5 percent processing fee.
In late February, UA students received an email from the Bursar's Office announcing that as of Monday, May 5, the university "will no longer directly accept credit and debit cards for payment of your Bursar account. In order to continue to provide students with a variety of payment options, we have arranged for a third-party vendor, Nelnet, to accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express for payments made online. ... When a credit or debit card payment is made, Nelnet will charge a 2.5% convenience fee, in addition to the University of Arizona payment amount."
Mark McGurk, UA associate vice president for financial services, told the Tucson Weekly that no longer accepting credit and debit cards directly will help the UA save $3 million that it has been paying every year in user fees to credit card companies.
"We've piggybacked on an existing contract with ASU has with Nelnet," McGurk said, adding that UA officials found a way to help the school save money while still giving students the ability to pay tuition using credit and debit cards.
"The majority of UA students receive some form of financial aid, so after receiving financial aid how much are students actually paying?" McGurk said. "But they still have options."
A petition at Change.org has gathered more than 6,000 signatures of students opposed to the processing fee.
"Many in-state and out-of-state U of A students cannot afford the price of tuition up front. This will add an additional $259.75 fee (for in-state undergrad) and an additional $676.80 fee (for out-of-state undergrad) students per year for simply paying their bill via debit or credit card," the petition states. "Contracting with Nelnet instead of using the current Bursar payment method will discriminate against many U of A students who already cannot afford the cost of their education."
The petition says UA has boosted tuition more than 40 percent in the past five years and that students don't need another fee. "As a student body, we ask you to either decrease tuition or get rid of the 2.5% 'convenience' fee. We ask you to commit to making quality education affordable for everyone," the petition states.
Last fall, undergraduate and graduate students who are Arizona residents saw tuition go up about $300. The increase for out-of-state residents was about $800.
McGurk said that while he is not dismissing those who signed the petition, the decision to use Nelnet is a done deal. If students who signed the petition wants a better understanding of how the decision was made, they are welcome to write to the Financial Services Office directly, McGurk said.
UA creative writing senior Tiffany Rose Lee started the Change.org petition. The Weekly emailed Lee asking for a response but did not hear back from her by press time.
Nelnet is a Lincoln, Neb.-based company that focuses on student financial aid services. UA and ASU aren't the only universities across the country using Nelnet to process credit card payments. However, UA was behind the times, considering that all the other Pac-12 schools either charge fees or don't allow credit and debit cards to be used for tuition payments, McGurk said.