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Western Union: tuition payments in rupees

Money transfer giant, Western Union, is to make it easier for universities to accept payments in Indian rupees, cutting costs for thousands of students when paying their tuition fees from an Indian bank account. The new system, which is free for universities that use Western Union Business Solutions (WUBS), will be rolled out in North America next week, the UK and Australia in three weeks, and then Europe. 500 universities stand to benefit.

"It will reduce our administrative costs, a saving we are passing on to our students"

“Western Union Business Solutions’ steps to enable local currency payments, including [now] the Indian rupee, will significantly reduce the expense and effort necessary for our students to make their tuition payments,” explained Peter Tom, director of the Cashier’s Office at the University of Southern California which will be among the first to use the system.

“It will reduce our administrative costs, a saving we are passing on to our students by waiving fees for wire transfers made using WUBS.”

Western Union said it wanted to launch the scheme in other highly regulated markets

Western Union has run similar schemes in major student markets over the last two years, channelling payments through its own network of banks to cut commission. But due to its financial regulations India has not been eligible to join, forcing students to continue wiring payments through the international banking system, racking up extra charges.

Some 195,000 Indian students were “enrolled” abroad in 2009 according to UNESCO, suggesting swathes have been affected.

“A payment would get to the university, it would be short paid because banks had charged fees along the way,” Ben Kavalec, VP of corporate sales US for Western Union Business Solutions, told The PIE News. “So the student could arrive at university and be told he still owed $400—a pretty uncomfortable start to a freshman year for someone going to school in another country.”

“The student could arrive at university and be told he still owed $400″

With the new service, available to those who bank with India’s ICICI Bank, students will be able to pay tuition and other fees, such as meal plans, directly from their bank accounts. Western Union said it wanted to launch the scheme in other highly regulated markets such as China and South Korea.

“It’s really an exciting time for the universities because they’ve been screaming to their providers to be able to handle incoming Indian rupees,” said Kavelec.

Said Tom: “We applaud this innovation and know our students will appreciate the convenience and cost savings.”

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