Many of us choose not to use ATMs that charge service fees. Why pay when you have the option of using one for free?
Unfortunately, parents who want to make online payments for lunch in the Aberdeen School District don't have an option. MySchoolBucks, the online and smartphone app service the district uses, charges a "convenience fee" of $2.49 each time parents add money to their kids' lunch accounts.
Granted, parents can also send a check with kids or stop by the District Service Center to replenish accounts for no additional charge. But school business hours often conflict with parents' work schedules. And for many (most?), online payments are an expected service, not an add-on convenience.
At first glance the fee might not seem like a big deal. It might not hurt families that are financially able to add money each month. At the end of the school year, those 35 or so bucks probably aren't a huge deal.
But let's think about who it adversely affects.
For those who can't make up-front payments that far in advance, the fee can add up. For a family with two kids in elementary school and another in middle school, the cost of lunch would average about $180 a month. People who live paycheck to paycheck probably find it easier to budget $45 a week to cover those meals. Those are the families apt to pay more when using MySchoolBucks online or via app.
If a family had to reload a lunch account 30 times a year, for instance, that's $135. It all adds up.
On average, it costs about $400 for a student to get lunches through the course of a school year. That's evidence that Aberdeen public schools have done an excellent job of keeping costs for lunch low. But there should be thought given to the families that could pay an extra third to MySchoolBucks.
Our public schools most often do a great job of being aware of and advocating policy that keeps costs down for all families, especially those who might be struggling financially. We ask only that if those who can afford it least are paying the most in "convenience fees," officials keep as many options as possible in play.