Administration says new payment policy will aid students


Mitchell Allred

The educational services building houses the financial aid office and university accounts receivable at NMSU.

Beginning fall 2020, New Mexico State University will be implementing a new fixed payment plan that will be mandatory for some students to enroll in. The new plan managed by University Accounts Receivable has been under fire by some students at NMSU for requiring a non-refundable $25 fee and for threatening students with disenrollment.

On Aug. 18, one day before fall classes at NMSU began, University Accounts Receivable sent an email to students who met the criteria for the payment plan with the email’s subject reading “NMSU Fall 2020 Class Cancellation Notice.”

The email notified these students that they were required to enroll in the plan if they could not bring their semester balance down to $200 by Sept. 4 at 5 p.m. — about two weeks into the fall semester.

“As you plan for the Fall 2020 semester, we want to remind you that any student with a current semester balance of $200 or more will need to enroll into the Payment Plan to prevent their Fall 2020 classes from being canceled,” the email stated.

Some NMSU students were quick to express their opinions on the plan via Twitter.

University Controller Norma Noel said that the university has been looking into introducing a formal payment plan designed for students to pay off their semester balances.

NMSU students are required to have their student account balances paid off on the 15th of every month to avoid being charged a $10 late fee—this has been the case in previous semesters and this requirement will still apply this semester.

However, in previous semesters, students’ outstanding balances carried over from each month and students were not at risk from being disenrolled throughout the semester.

Students with an outstanding balance of at least $1,000, received a registration hold on their account, preventing them from registering for new classes.

This semester’s new payment plan, in addition to requiring a $25 non-refundable application fee, requires that students pay off their account balance in five increments throughout the semester. In other words, students enrolled in this plan must pay a monthly payment of 20% of their balance.

The first 20% payment will be due on Sept. 4 alongside the application fee. The following payments will be due Sept. 15, Oct. 15, Nov. 15 and Dec. 15.

Fall and spring semester payment plans will require five payments while summer semesters will require three. Students will be required to apply for the plan for every semester that they begin with a balance of $200 or greater.

According to the payment plan’s website, a student will have their classes canceled if they fail to enroll in the plan, make their first down payment and have a prior balance of less than $2,500 by the Sept. 4 deadline.

Each time a student misses and is late on making a monthly payment, they will still be charged a $10 late fee—just like in previous semesters—according to plan’s website.

Vice President of Student Success Renay Scott said that NMSU is hoping to reduce the number of students who cannot register for their upcoming semesters by implementing the payment dates.

“Often about the time registration opens for students, a very large percentage of our students are unable to register because they have very large balances,” Scott said. “They would come to the advisors or myself and say, ‘I have no idea how I’m going to pay the $999 down.’”

Scott said the development for this plan began in 2018 and that between now and then, there was “a lot of” preparation, communication and marketing before it was released to students.

NMSU senior Joseph Fullbright said it is “weird” for NMSU to force some of its students into a plan but said he also understood why NMSU introduced it.

“It’s somewhat inconvenient for NMSU students, but from an institutional standpoint [such as] the university, it makes sense. It helps ensure they get their money,” Fullbright said.

Noel said that the $25 fee required in the plan—which has been controversial for students—is an administrative fee to implement and manage the plan.

“This being a new administrative service that’s being brought for is to help run the administrative side of it—for all the different resources that you need to go into this, beginning with the implementation and managing it forward,” Noel said.

Alex Guljas, a freshman at NMSU, said that he does not like the idea of the fee considering that tuition at NMSU increased this year.

“In my opinion, the fee makes no sense because you aren’t paying anyone to do it for you—it’s just a way to make that extra money off of everyone,” Guljas said. “With tuition already being higher, I don’t understand why they felt the need for that.”

Samantha Lish, manager at University Accounts Receivable, said that having a balance of less than $200 is a “magic number” that will help NMSU students end their semesters with a zero-dollar balance.

“Ultimately, $200 is the magic number because federal regulations allow us to keep $200 of current aid year federal financial aid to pay a past due balance, and so our goal is to have students get their balance down to $200 and then when they get federal aid the next semester, we can take that $200, pay it off and then those students will have a zero balance with NMSU,” Lish said.

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