By Dena Tackett/Editor

For those who shop around for the best place to write a bad check, Eastern is hoping to take the university off of the list. For decades, Eastern has charged $10 for all returned checks. The Board of Regents voted Aug. 3 to up that amount to $25. “We are lower than anyone in town, which makes us the location of choice to write a bad check,” Vice President of Finance Ken Johnston told Regents before the vote.

Eastern also enacted a policy that if a person – faculty, staff or student – writes more than three bad checks, he or she will no longer be allowed to write checks to the university.

The price increase came after the division of billings and collections conducted a survey of other colleges and universities, local businesses and local check cashing firms.

The survey found that most higher education institutions charge either $20 or $25 for returned checks.

Out of Kentucky’s eight public universities, the survey found that Western Kentucky University, Kentucky State University and Morehead State University charge $25; Northern Kentucky University and Murray State University charge $20; and the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville charge $15.

According to the survey, the majority of local business, such as grocery stores and service stations, charge $25. Local check cashing agencies charge between $17.40 and $23.65 for a $100 check.

Johnston said he hasn’t put a dollar amount on how much the increased fee will bring to the university, but that he would prefer none at all.

“This is not a fundraising initiative,” Johnston said. “This is an initiative for change in behavior.”

The return check fee charge usually serves two purposes: to discourage people from writing an institution a bad check and to pay for the cost of processing them when they are received.

Billings and Collections handles the process for the university after the checks are returned from the university’s bank, National City Bank.

Johnston estimates that one-fifth of an employee’s time is spent processing returned checks at Eastern. The university plans to cut down on this by using the Banner computer system, which allows students to pay bills through the mail or even on the Internet.

“This way we can spend an employee’s time better serving students,” Johnston said.