E-payments set to supplant paper bills

Beginning next month, the University will stop mailing students paper copies of bills to their homes and continue to send monthly financial statements only by e-mail, a move expected to save Yale thousands of dollars annually.

The discontinuation of paper bills for tuition and bursar charges will eliminate printing and mailing costs, which often climb to five-figure sums, said Victor Stein, the Student Financial Services Director of Finance and Administration. Stein said the switch to electronic billing and payment — called eBill-ePay — will be more efficient, since payments can be made immediately and at any hour of the day. While some students and parents said they are glad that the changeover will save trees and time, others expressed concern about Internet security and reliability.

Stein said the eBill-ePay system, which was first phased in last October, has not created any new costs for the University since it was developed without outside consultants.

“The [total] saved money will serve to reduce or help eliminate any deficit in the general appropriations budget,” Stein said.

Karin Lee ’08, the Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership co-coordinator in Ezra Stiles College, said the switch to eBill-ePay will aid Yale’s new sustainability movement by reducing paper waste.

“It is not just about the stereotypical tree-hugger saving the environment, it is also about being economical,” Lee said.

While bills will now be sent only electronically, they can still be paid either through written check or electronic transfers. Yale parent Bob Goehrke said that with eBilling, all he needs now is his Blackberry and checkbook.

“As someone who travels internationally, I ignore [traditional] mail,” Goerke said. “E-mail actually gets my attention. But I still pay with a check because when you have that much money, you want to control when it is cashed.”

According to the SFS Web site, in some “rare cases” when students are unable to access their online accounts, they can complete an appeal for paper billing form by e-mailing the financial services. Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle said he understands that international e-mail addresses can be especially unreliable.

Still, some Yale parents had mixed reactions to the new system.

Like Goehrke, parent Cynthia Mochizuki said she does not mind receiving eBill notification. She is leery of paying her daughter’s tuition electronically, however, because she has been a victim of identity theft.

“Electronic check transmission is very modern and probably the way to go, but because my [credit] is super sensitive as a result of ID theft, I personally don’t feel safe paying online,” Mochizuki said.

Scott Hillier ’10 said he was concerned that his mother would have a difficult time adjusting to the new eBill-ePay system, since she is an administrative assistant more used to working with paper than with electronic documents. But Norlene Hillier said she found the new eBill-ePay system easy to use and had no problem using its features, such as viewing copies of past bills from the last 16 months, and tailoring it to her habits.

“If I want the bill, I print the bill,” Hillier said. “It is pretty convenient.”

David Leigh ’10 said his parents found themselves uncertain that their instant ePayment had been received.

“They did have a little freak-out over it and I needed to explain to them for a while that when you press send it went through,” Leigh said. “My mom called Yale several times after she sent it, maybe 30 seconds after, but they were like, ‘No, we still have a balance since it takes a few minutes to process.’”

Yale has also launched a similar initiative for employee travel expense reporting.

Comments