The Paper Trail

The Ohio Bursars Association

Vol 10. No.2 - January 2005

The Presidents Corner
By: Sherry Downs
Ohio University

I hope your holidays were relaxing and enjoyable. The New Year typically means a time to review the old and plan for the new. While most of us probably think of this assessment in terms of our personal lives, it also relates to our professional lives as well. We have met many goals both within our institutions and within the Ohio Bursars Association, but many more are looming on the horizon.

Our association meeting on February 2nd will hopefully help us attain some of our objectives – or at least point us in the right direction. With every goal we must consider the impact on customer service. To help us with this evaluation process, we will have Barry Himmel from Signature, Inc. talk to us about how to provide exemplary customer service. After all, our customers are our business.

For the past several years, our institution has seen great leaps in the volume of alternative student loans. This rapid increase in student loans is a result of increasing tuition (due to decreasing state funding) and limited financial aid resources. Unfortunately, alternative loans are becoming a necessity for students to meet their unmet need. We will have a presentation on some of the issues related to alternative loans, and we will review some of the choices institutions have in selecting and advertising private loan programs.

We will also include our traditional roundtable discussion where you will have the opportunity to discuss other relevant topics with your peers.
In an effort to meet one of our OBA New Year’s resolutions, please invite a non-member colleague to our association meeting or encourage one of our “gone astray” members to rejoin our group. Lunch will again be provided by OBA so please take advantage of our networking opportunity.

Winter Meeting Announcement
Board of Trustees Meeting
3:00pm Tuesday, February 1, 2005
(Officers and Trustees Only)

General Session Meeting
Wednesday, February 2, 2005
(See Meeting Agenda Below)

Embassy Suites
2700 Corporate Exchange Drive
Columbus, OH 43231
Telephone: 1-614-890-8600
Special Room Rate of $109.00 is available

Meeting Agenda
9:00am – 10:00am Continental Breakfast
10:00am – 10:30am Business Meeting
10:30am – 10:45am Break
10:45am – 12:00pm Managing Customer Service - Presented by Barry Himmel Signature, Inc.
12:00pm – 1:15pm Lunch Provided by OBA
1:15pm – 2:30pm Alternative Loans
2:30pm – 3:30pm Roundtable Discussion
3:30pm Adjourn

OBA headed to Miami (of Ohio) for Spring Conference!
Look for your conference materials which will be mailed directly to all members in January.

Monday, April 11, 2005 to Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Location: Miami University, Oxford, OH
Hotel reservations contact:
Marcum Conference Center & Inn
513-529-2104 or 513-529-6911
$84 per night plus tax
Guaranteed room rate is available until
March 11, 2005

Registration Deadline:
March 31, 2005 (Be sure to register early)

Registration Fees:
Member Non-Member Associate Members
Both Days $100 $150 $500*
Tues. Only $75 $100 N/A
Wed. Only $50 $75 N/A
* Includes 1 representative. Each additional representative: add $100
Golf Scramble on Monday, April 11th: add $50
Non-member who joins OBA $135

Agenda Topics:
“Serious FUN-damentals for Success”
John Wagner, Seriously Funny

“Leading from Where You Are”
Raquel Dowdy-Cornute,
Director EEO, Miami University

"Reducing Check Losses Through Electronic Recovery"
Kasey Princell, CEO, Cash Flow Solutions

“529 Plans”
Jay Bennett, Attorney
Bennett Financial Advisors

“Group Opportunities And Leadership (GOAL)”
Miami University’s Outdoor Pursuit Center

Jay Johnson, Residency Officer and
Assistant Director of HEI, Ohio Board of Regents

“Wine Tasting 101”
Jack Keegan
Professor, Miami University

“E-Services Panel Discussion”

“Leading Change in Your Office”
Bob Kubat, University Registrar
Miami University

“I Never Learned Anything by Talking”
Patti Holmes, President
Holmes Training & Development

Member Spotlight
Georgia Gichenko, Membership At-Large Representative
Cleveland State University

Georgia has been with Cleveland State University for six years. She was hired as Assistant Bursar for Cashiering, Cash Management, and Investment Accounting. Within a year of being hired, the University proceeded with plans to move the Bursar’s Office to a central location on campus. In the new location, the student accounts counter was combined with the cashier’s counter and Georgia assumed the additional responsibility for Student Accounts.

During the PeopleSoft systems upgrade two years ago, Georgia took on a temporary assignment as Associate Bursar of Systems. After the systems upgrade, and in conjunction with the implementation of a one-stop student service center, the Bursar’s Office was renamed the Office of Treasury Services and was reorganized. Georgia is now serving as the Associate Director. Her job duties include management of the computer systems for the Office of Treasury Services, the installment payment plan, third-party contracts, department billing, student billing, and student refund checks.

Prior to working at Cleveland State University Georgia worked in the Controller’s Office at Hiram College. She earned her BA degree in Business Administration through the Weekend College program at Hiram. Before starting her career in higher education, she served for fourteen years as the elected Clerk/Treasurer for the Village of Burton.

Georgia’s father was in the military and she was born at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.
Her family is from Texas and she moved back and forth between Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, Camp Pendleton, California, and Lampasas, Texas until her father retired and the family moved to Ohio. Georgia lives with her husband in Geauga County in the family home built by his grandparents. She has one son who is married and lives with his wife in Solon.

Georgia fills her spare time with reading, flower gardening, knitting (mostly afghans) and weaving. She has three weaving looms and dreams of the day she can weave and read all day long.

Collections by the Book

Is Tuition Debt Dischargeable In Bankruptcy?

By Keith Weiner, President
Keith Weiner & Associates Co., LPA

It is common knowledge that Perkins, Stafford and other similar loans are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Code gives these debts substantial protection from discharge. Not all students, however, use this type of financial aid to pay for their education. Some pay for their education, in whole or in part, by incurring charges on an open tuition account and making payment according to due dates established by school policy. Unfortunately, this is where the trouble starts since not every student makes timely payment and often tuition debt is incurred and carried on some form of revolving basis. The school is therefore vulnerable because unlike the Perkins/Stafford Loan the tuition debt can be discharged if the student files bankruptcy. The question this articles answers is how can schools insulate themselves so that the tuition debt is afforded the same protection under the Bankruptcy Code as a Perkins/Stafford Loan.

This question has been addressed by bankruptcy courts all across the country. The predominate view is that: for tuition to be non-dischargeable in bankruptcy, there has to be some kind of promissory note between the school and the student to establish a debt that is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. In the Sixth Circuit however, the need for a promissory note is not particularly required. The Sixth Circuit, In re Merchant, 958 F.2nd 738 (Sixth Circuit 1992), examined this issue and provided a test to determine if tuition is non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. The test provided three factors that must be met for tuition to be non-dischargeable. The factors are as follows:

1) The student must be aware of the credit extension and acknowledge that the money is owed.
2) The amount of the debt has to be liquidated.
3) The extended credit has to be defined as a sum of money due to a person.

The difficulty with the Merchant Test is that it is fact based. Thus, depending on the particular facts of a case, the bankruptcy court could find that tuition debt is dischargeable. This is not to say a school can not protect themselves to prevent this from happening. So long as the school can establish all three factors the debt will be non-dischargeable. This places a great evidentiary burden on the school to establish the facts to support the Merchant Test. The question then becomes, “is there a better way to establish these three factors?”

Several bankruptcy courts outside of Ohio’s sixth Circuit have ruled that tuition debt can be considered an educational loan under the bankruptcy code and therefore, exempt from discharge if the student has signed a promissory note acknowledging the debt from its inception and agreeing to repay same. Since the Merchant decision was rendered in 1992, it is this author’s opinion that if confronted with this issue today the sixth Circuit would also establish the promissory note as the best way to avoid discharge in bankruptcy. The note should clearly demonstrate that the student is aware of a credit extension and that they have to pay it back. The note should have a fixed amount, whether per credit hour or semester, it should be clearly explained. Lastly, the extended credit has to be defined as a sum of money due to the school. In essence, the school should follow the three factors of the Merchant Test and stress those factors in a promissory note. The note can be a form contract that can be used over and over again. As with anything in law, it is always better to have it in writing!

OBA Board of Trustees - 2004– 2005

President: Sherry Downs, Bursar, Ohio University,
President Elect: Ginny Layton, Bursar, Miami University
Past President: Steve Sherbet, University Bursar, Wright State University
Secretary: Nancy Colsman, Bursar, Bowling Green State University
Treasurer: Debora Jones, Director of Collections, University of Cincinnati
Four-Year Public Representative: Deborah Bohanan, Coordinator, The Ohio State University
Four-Year Private Representative: Jeff Cisco, Director of Student Accounts, Capital University
Two-Year Public Representative: Larry Hoffman, Controller, James A. Rhodes State College
Membership At-Large Rep.: Georgia Gichenko, Associate Director, Cleveland State University
Associate Member Representative: Pat Gammalo, Security Credit Services

A Note From Our Treasurer, Debora Jones:
Second notices have been mailed for annual association dues. If your institution has not yet responded, please remit dues promptly to Debora Jones.

Goodbye John...
Welcome Deborah!

John Rote, former bursar from the University of Toledo recently left the university. This action created a vacancy in the Four Year Public Representative Trustee. In accordance with OBA Bylaws, the Nominations Committee has nominated Deborah Bohanan, Coordinator, from The Ohio State University, to fill this position until a special election can be held at our upcoming Winter Meeting on February 2. At that time, the general membership will officially vote to fill the vacancy. If elected in February, Deborah will fill John’s original term concluding in spring 2006.

Please join me in saying goodbye to John. Although his tenure was short, he was instrumental in helping us develop an orientation book for new members joining the Association. All of us on the board wish John well in his future endeavors.

We are also extremely pleased that Deborah has agreed to fill the vacant position. Deborah has many years of experience at The Ohio State University and all of us look forward to working with her in the New Year. Thank you Deborah for your willingness to serve on the Board of Trustees!

Notice of Special Election to fill Four Year Public Representative Trustee:

When: February 2, 2005
General Session Business Meeting (10:00 - 10:30AM)

Where: Embassy Suites, Columbus

Nominee: Deborah Bohanan Coordinator,
The Ohio State University

Thought for the Term

“What We Know About the Impact of Financial Aid on Student Retention”

Presented by: Mark Heffron at the Noel-Levitz National Conference on Student Retention, July 2004

What successful colleges are doing:
• Make the application process as easy as possible.
• Be accessible and responsive to students and families.
• Coordinate activities with Admissions, Registrar, and Business Offices.
• Serve financing, not just financial aid needs.
• Get awards out promptly.
• Develop a customer service attitude.
• Offer meaningful student-work opportunities.
• Employ and retain qualified staff.
• Study retention data.

Professional Development Opportunities

Coalition of Higher Education Assistance Organizations (COHEAO) Annual Meeting
Arlington, Virginia Jan. 30 – Feb. 2, 2005

Ohio Bursars Association Winter Meeting
Embassy Suites- Columbus, Ohio
February 2, 2005

CACUBO St. Louis Professional Development Workshop
St. Louis, Missouri Feb. 16-17, 2005

NACUBO Student Financial Services Conference
Orlando, Florida March 6-8, 2005

Ohio Bursars Association 15th Spring Conference
Miami University- Oxford, Ohio
April 11 –13, 2005

Professional Development Group 19th National Conference for College and University Bursars, Cashiers, Treasury Managers and Student Financial Services
San Antonio, Texas April 24-27, 2005

CACUBO Collegiate Management Institute
Miami University- Oxford, Ohio
May 15-20, 2005

Editor - Steve Sherbet