The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Students can make parents pay

SMU parent Judy Reitmeier has always known that SMU is an expensive university. What she didn’t know is that she would also be held financially accountable for whatever her daughter purchases with her student charge.

“I had no idea she even had an iPod until Christmas break,” said Reitmeier. “When I asked how she got it, I didn’t know she was going to say ‘from you and dad’… I never saw it on the credit card bill, and thought that ‘Computer Corner’ was the place she took her computer to get fixed.”

It isn’t difficult for SMU students on a budget to get what they want, not just what they need. Thanks to “student charge,” one of the only things between you and the new Xbox 360 is your conscience, because unless they refuse to pay any holds on your account, Mom and Dad can’t stop you from charging it home.

There are two types of bills Student Financials sends out to parents. The first is for the student account, which is usually sent once a semester. This includes things like tuition, parking pass, meal plan, student housing, yearbook and student fees (which everyone must pay for overall campus upkeep). The other bill is for miscellaneous charges, which is sent when students get a parking ticket, charge something, or when there was a problem receiving payment for the student account like a late fee and a fine is imposed.

When that second or third bill comes, what happens if your parents want to know exactly what you charged? According to student account specialist Paola Sotomayor, if they call Student Financials they are out of luck. The item or service which was charged doesn’t get sent to the financials office. In order to figure out what the charge was for, the parent would need to track down the phone number or address of where the student charged the items and hope that they have it on record.

While “Computer Corner,” located on the second floor of Hughes-Trigg, does offer computer repair services at competitive prices, it also offers iPods, laptops, cameras, printers and even at one time had smoothie and espresso machines. But that’s not all – if you want something that’s not in the store, just about anything you want can be ordered, from a flat-screen TV to DJ equipment. Just ask junior Grant Gillespie.

“I bought a 26-inch HD TV which was about $800,” said Gillespie.

So what’s so special about buying it from Computer Corner? A lot of their stuff is offered at a “student price,” so it could be less expensive to buy it there than somewhere else. But even better, you can student charge it all. However, there is a minimum purchase of $50 for student charge.

Where else can you get great stuff and make it look school related? Thanks to Barnes and Noble, students can student charge anything in the SMU bookstore. So along with the $500 spent on schoolbooks, students can toss in things like stationary, SMU memorabilia, an mp3 player, makeup and even a great meal from their full cafe.

However, unlike the discounts and special promotions offered by Computer Corner on many electronics, Barnes and Noble uses students who charge on their accounts to their advantage by marking up some of its prices. An Xbox 360 is priced at $517, approximately $120 more than you might pay for it somewhere else.

If the bookstore doesn’t have what you’re looking for, don’t sweat it. There might be a gift certificate, which can be purchased with your student charge, that will allow you to go elsewhere to make your purchases.

If you’re taking a road trip with some friends you could each charge a Marriott gift card and split the hotel, or if you’re going on a date you could charge an AMC gift card. The list goes on with gift card offerings from Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Radio Shack and the already popular Bass Pro Shop and iTunes.

“I’ve definitely gotten some free pizzas from the bookstore,” said Gillespie.

All that’s required at the time of purchase is a student ID, another form of identification, and the words “student charge.”

Pony is also accepted at these locations, but is a different form of payment and the money can be put on your account and is taken off as you spend it, like a debit card. Student charge is more comparable to a credit card without a limit. Parents are the ones getting the bill, and all it will say is the class the item is in, the item status, the activity date, the balance owed and item details. Mixed in among the charges for past due fees, library fines and overtime parking will be Computer Corner, Bookstore Charges, and Treatment/Supply Health Center.

When viewing a bill online there is a link for item details, but it doesn’t provide many. The bill provides no record of what you charged at the given location – only the amount spent and the date student financials received a record of the charge.

If your spending gets excessive?

“We can’t stop a student from charging on their account” says Sotomayor, and SMU puts no limit on the amount that can be charged.

So, calling Student Financials to cut your child off from using his student charge won’t work. If a parent did want to regulate his or her child’s spending, he or she would have to instill their own consequences for overspending, which could be “working it off” over the summer or simply refusing to pay the hold so that the student is unable to register for classes.

So, whoever takes care of your financials could be paying a lot more than just rising tuition rates. These third-party companies have created a symbiotic relationship with SMU students thanks to student charges.

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