Were they protesting the war in Iraq? President Bush? The ban on same-sex marriages? Actually, the students were upset about a new ID card and method of financial aid distribution.
The dust-up dates back to a few weeks earlier when PSU signed a contract with Connecticut-based credit card company HigherOne. The company is producing the school's new ID card--a MasterCard called the OneCard. When activated, the card creates debit accounts through which all of a student's financial aid will go.
Student body representative Tony Rasmussen points out there are several problems with this system. For starters, the school has handed over mounds of students' personal information to the company without students' permission--potentially breaking privacy rules and giving HigherOne the ability to pass off the info to other companies for marketing purposes. Further, the fees imposed by the company--including a 50-cent fee on every transaction and a $50 closing and overdraft fee--are 94 percent higher than the average Portland-area bank.
Rasmussen says the cards represent a fix to a problem that doesn't exist. "The best we've heard is that it will make the [financial aid] lines shorter," he bemoaned.
The average undergraduate student leaves college more than $3,000 in debt to credit card companies. A recent study from the Consumer Federation of America reported that credit cards "pose a greater threat [to students] than alcohol or STDs." The HigherOne cards are particularly egregious because they tie loan debt to personal debt.
However, in spite of the students' protests, PSU may be reluctant to back out of its deal with HigherOne; they receive kickbacks from the debit charges and will face a $300,000 fee if the contract is terminated.
Following the sit-in, PSU president Bernstein said he would work to resolve the issue before the next term starts. In the meantime, the student government is organizing further protests including a 2,000-student boycott. SCOTT MOORE