Saturday, May 22, 2010

Technology? 好不好?

It was months ago now, but I will never forget registration at the college where I studied Chinese.  I walked into the main entryway to find a mass of lost foreign students trying to figure out which line (there were sort of some lines forming) they needed to be in to get the information they needed in the native language (or at least some language they could read).

After getting my English language instructions, I went into the auditorium behind this entryway and got into another line to pick up forms I had to fill out, and then another line, and another.  All of the paperwork was done on actual paper and tuition had to be paid in cash only.

I was floored.  In the very country where so many high tech computers and components are made there was no online registration or pay by credit card options. It reminded me of a story my mother once told me about what it was like to register for college classes back in her day.

Fast-forward 9 months to yesterday.  I received an email from my home university back in the US that said, "

Each time a credit card pays *** charges, the credit card companies pass on a usage cost to the university.  This past year *** offered VISA credit cards as another online payment option and changed from charging a percentage on each credit card payment to a fixed $6.00 convenience fee on each transaction…

The email goes on the explain how the university ended up absorbing a large amount of fees due to these changes and so will no longer be accepting VISA.  They will still except other credit cards, but the student will be charged a 2.5% convenience fee.

Wait, what? First, I want my institution to be spending its money on educational things, not on credit cards.  Second, as a broke college student, I want to be spending my money on educational things, not credit cards. At 2.5% added to robber baron tuition hikes every year (tuition gets to rise with inflation these days unlike paychecks) a student could easily be looking at around $200 in fees a year spent on basically nothing. 

As strange as I found Taiwan’s cash based economy when I first arrived here, I have come to appreciate it. Just because we have the technological ability to do something does mean that it is in our best interest to do/use it. I wonder now how much cheaper things would be back home if stores weren’t paying so much out to credit card companies.

I think this fall, when I return to my college in the US, I will go to campus, stand in line, and pay in cash. 

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