Is Your Kid’s Student ID a Debit Card?

This morning I stumbled across this story about a community college student who was suspended for two semesters because he protested on the school's Facebook page the school's forcing students to use student ID offered by a debit card company. He was later reinstated after an advocacy group intervened on his behalf.  From the story:

Catawba Valley Community College student Marc Bechtol was suspended for two semesters earlier this week after complaining about the debit card on the school's Facebook page, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.  Bechtol's Facebook complaint included a suggestion urging readers to find "good viruses" to send to the school or register it for porn sites. On Oct. 4, Bechtol was pulled from class and told he was no longer allowed on campus.

After the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) intervened, Bechtol was reinstated. The school viewed Bechtol’s post as a threat, but FIRE argued that it was protected free speech and not a serious threat…

Bechtol complained last spring that school was forcing him to obtain a debit card issued by financial firm Higher One, and that his personal information would be shared with the company. When he did, he said he immediately began receiving credit card spam, which directly inspired his Facebook comment.

"Did anyone else get a bunch of credit card spam in their CVCC inbox today? So, did CVCC sell our names to banks, or did Higher One? I think we should register CVCC's address with every porn site known to man. Anyone know any good viruses to send them?" he wrote, according to the letter FIRE published.

I currently have one child attending a North Carolina university (UNCC), and will likely have two more attending NC schools in the next three years, and I can tell you I would be quite unhappy to discover that their only choice for student ID is a debit card.  I couldn't tell from reading the story if there was any way for students to get an ID that had a deactivated debit card feature, but even if there is I think the student raised a good point – why should they have to deal with their names being sold to marketers?

Something else that bothers me about this story is the school's reaction to the student's Facebook rant.  Granted he suggested students register the school with porn sites and/or infect the school's network with viruses, but you'd think the school's administrators would recognize hyperbole when they see it.  Or maybe not.  Any which way you slice it I'd say they overreacted just a touch.

4 thoughts on “Is Your Kid’s Student ID a Debit Card?

  1. RLR

    Hrm. Part of me is incredibly disappointed that any institution would choose to do this, and part of me realizes (from my days in Higher Ed) that they have to pay the bills somehow. Although the article portrays this as more of a convenience for students and the financial aid office, the institution is surely getting a cut.

  2. Leatherwing

    I was a UNCG student from 2003 – 2006. The student ID was capable of being used as a debit card (tied to a bank). It could also be used as a pre-paid debit card. One of these methods had to be employed if a student ever needed to pay for printing in one of the computer labs – the ID card was the only accepted payment method.
    Also, it was in my last semester (fall 2006) that the university finally issued an ID number that was not my Social Security Number.

  3. Jon Lowder

    I’m almost positive you’re right about the institution getting a cut. Credit card companies do all sorts of affiliate programs with organizations (schools, non-profits, companies) and I’d say this is a similar concept. It very well might be convenient for students, but I just don’t like the idea of a compulsory debit card which is what this looks like.

  4. Jon Lowder

    The “only accepted payment method” gimmick is a classic. You don’t HAVE to use our card, but we’re going to make your life miserable if you don’t.
    That last sentence reminded me that back in the day in Virginia our drivers licenses used our social security numbers as the ID number. Back then we didn’t have identity theft on our radar so the convenience of not having to memorize another number seemed like a good thing. Now, not so much.


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