Saturday, April 27, 2013

FSU, Billing and Loans

            I am going to complain a bit about the way I see money being distributed and collected by my college, Florida State University, and also loans from the government.

            I am going to Law school, which is incredibly expensive, though if you look at the statistics of education costs to projected earnings after graduation Law School does seem less likely to leave you a cashier at Taco Bell than an advanced degree in Foreign literature.  Regardless I have to take out loans, and this is done in an odd way.

            Basically they tell me how much I am allowed to borrow, I then ask to borrow it, and then they send me most of what they said they would give me.  Let's say I need $10,000, and they say, "Okay, we'll give you $10,000."  They will then send me a check for $9,000 and a receipt for me having paid them $1,000 for the use of their service.  Why do that?  That doesn't make any sense.

            One problem: it is incredibly hard to plan around.  If I need X dollars, and ask for that much, and they then tell me that I will get X dollars, students are not going to know that X dollars is not X dollars.  It is a rug getting pulled out from under them.  Why not just charge a higher interest rate?  Why not send them X dollars and just tell them that an additional charge of some smaller amount will be tacked on to account for processing, but won't be charged interest like the loan money?

            This is the sort of bureaucratic crap that people claim is what is wrong with government in general but is never fixed.  There has to be thousands of parents who discover this every year putting kids through college.  And these parents are the type who have money and vote, you can tell because they are sending their kid to college instead of having him work.  So why is this not an issue to get ironed out?

            Then there is the issue of bill collecting.  I had a pinched or irritated nerve in the left part of my rib cage so they took X-rays to be sure nothing serious was there, since they have not bothered to contact me except for a bill I guess I can rest easy.  And while medical care is another bag of worms (charging as much as they do to use a machine is kind of fine, but not telling me how much it costs before doing it is not, and even if they did tell me I am in no position to refuse preventative care because I have a pain in my rib that I can't identify and that puts you in a mindset to spend more money than you otherwise would... Because this country has flooded our heads with medical information that is alarmist in order to get us to both go to the doctor more, and to justify charging more and more for services)... I guess I let a few worms out of the can, but moving on.

            The service was rendered in March, they billed me personally one month later, and then told me of the charge one week later when they decided that enough time had gone by to justify withholding some university services... During finals week.  Aside from the fact that this should have been handled by the insurance, and they bill me if they decide this doctor prescribed treatment wasn't covered, the school shouldn't be billing me directly.  Two, it is all computerized, why did the mistaken billing take a month?  Why was I not notified when it finally happened?  Why was my only notice in the form of a sort of penalty?  Why do they think finals, a time in which people have priorities other than paying the academia pimp, to chose to demand money?  I don't know.

            Then there is the system.  The school charges a $7.75 convenience fee for paying online.  Couple of things, paying online should be the only way to pay, that service is instantaneous, mechanized, and can be done at any time, from nearly anywhere.  The idea of having a room with people sorting written checks is stupid in a modern civilization. 

            Then why charge this fee for every use of the online service?  It is always $7.75 whether you are paying $10,000 in tuition, $250 in med bills, or a $5 library late fee, that is insane and unfair.  They should just have the charge be hidden, slightly increasing the cost of everything to account for that cost.  Wal-Mart does not charge you $5 for paying with a credit card, no one does, that would be insane, and having an all cash business or sorting through all the checks they get would be monstrously time consuming and have huge overhead costs.

            Another solution: charge some flat rate at the beginning of the school year, "Electronic Services: $20" just like they do with "Transportation: $40" that lets FSU student use the Tallahassee bus lines at will.  You get money up front that people see the one time, and can account for.  Either way, you have a billing system that a person can use to pay off the apparently overdue medical bill that is wrongly on his account when he receives the useless email at midnight without feeling like he is getting his/her lunch money taken away as an insult to the injury.

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