Higher One Goes Public, Looks Ahead

Contributed PhotoAfter raking in $36 million by joining the New York Stock Exchange, New Haven’s fast-rising financial services company plans to expand its workforce, move out of its Science Park office—and do its best to keep 180 jobs in the city.

Founded in 2000 by three Yale undergraduates, Higher One hit a milestone last week when it issued an initial public offering of stock. Higher One Holdings started trading a week ago Thursday under the symbol ONE. The company sold three million shares at its initial offering, reaping in $36 million, according to co-founder and Chief Operations Officer Miles Lasater.

Higher One contracts with 650 colleges and universities to help them handle payments to students of any money left over from financial aid grants, loans, or if the student drops a class. Instead of waiting on line at the bursar’s office or waiting for a check that may get lost, students click onto Higher One’s site and get their money directly. The students can also sign up for a checking account that lets them do all their banking online, at no cost, at any time of day or night; and lets their parents easily deposit money. The company is seen as representative of the kind of tech-oriented homegrown businesses that can create New Haven’s jobs to replace its eviscerated manufacturing base.

Paul Bass File PhotoLasater (pictured) said the new money will help Higher One pay down debt and fill 30 new positions in New Haven, ranging from entry-level to senior staff. The company offers colleges and universities across the country an online disbursement and banking service, and online banking for students.

Lasater traveled with top Higher One staff to the New York Stock Exchange last week for the first day of trading. The stock exchange let Higher One hang a banner (pictured above) on its hallowed walls. Casey McGuane, the company’s chief service officer, performed the honor of ringing the ceremonial bell to mark the open of trading for the day. And the crew got to stand in a crowd on the trading floor as the buying and selling began.

“It was really a thrilling moment,” Lasater said. “It’s a big step.”

He outlined the next steps to come.

The company employs over 400 people—170 work here in New Haven, at 25 Science Park, 45 in a San Francisco Bay Area office, and the rest work from home.

Higher One was one of the first tenants to move into the building. It helped usher in a wave of other tenants, and redefine the Winchester Avenue area as a bustling spot to grow a small business. Now, with Yale and other tenants soon to fill the building, Lasater said the company is outgrowing the space.

“There’s less room to grow here,” Lasater said. He said his company is planning to move in the next 18 months. Higher One would move all 170-plus local positions expected there by then to a new office space, where it aims to expand even further, he said.

Lasater said Higher One has visited several locations, in and outside New Haven. The company is currently negotiating in discussions with developer Carter Winstanley about moving into a new office space planned right across the street, at 275 Winchester Ave.

“We’re very interested in that property,” Lasater said.

Higher One is spending the most time discussing that site compared to other sites, he said, but “it’s not a done deal.”

“We’re still looking at other options,” Lasater said. While the company has been devoted to New Haven throughout its 10-year legacy, cheap office space with ample parking can be hard to come by. Lasater said he is “certainly” looking at places outside New Haven.

“Everything is on the table at this point.”

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posted by: Consequences on June 24, 2010  9:38am

Come to the suburbs. We guarantee you will not be stiffed for unfair taxes. No extortionists here.

posted by: streever on June 24, 2010  9:52am

Stay in the city, where your young & urbane staff can continue to contribute to a thriving place to live!

The suburbs would certainly welcome Higher One with open arms, but the reality is there is nothing going on out there but subdivisions and forests/open space being ripped up because people can’t figure out how to live without less than 3 cars to a family. In New Haven, your employees can bike and walk to work, have a life outside of their office, and really thrive by being part of a vibrant community.

Higher One stands to gain everything from remaining in New Haven—all the gain in the suburbs are temporary tax abatements, less happy workers, and miles of parking lots.

posted by: Husky MBA on June 24, 2010  10:42am

August 1989 I enrolled in the part time UConn evening MBA program, two courses, paid in full from my own funds.  By the time they notified me that one course selection was full, it was too late to sign up for another appropriate entry semester class.  I asked for a refund on tuition for one course.  Late November or December, it was time to register and pay for Spring 1990 courses… UConn had not yet refunded my un-earned tuition and fees.  Pathetic.  Congratulations Higher One, I hope our premier State University is now one of your clients.

posted by: The Count on June 24, 2010  11:32am

Mark Volchek is doing an admirable job guiding Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport. This despite an apathetic mayor and a Bradley-centered state D.O.T. But of course, THAT story has yet to be written.

posted by: anon on June 24, 2010  11:45am

Though suburbs offer many benefits, many large publicly-traded corporations have in recent years been relocating to city centers with access to rail transportation.  This is a major trend that will accelerate over the next few years.  The main reason is that when they do 5-10 year projections, the cost of transportation becomes a severe concern.  The secondary reason is that it makes it easier to attract young and urbane staff, as streever points out, who strongly prefer to live in city centers and the recruitment and retention of whom is critical.

Since very few of their employees will be able to afford to drive to the huge Science Park parking garage (even though some may be able to walk), Higher One might want to take a look at this trend and open an office next to Union Station, or the Milford or West Haven train stations.

posted by: Liz on June 24, 2010  10:38pm

How about UI’s old space? New Haven needs more companies like this.

posted by: nfjanette on June 24, 2010  10:53pm

Hmmmm less cost (despite the fiction spun by the new urbanists), more profit and nicer (although certainly more sterile), safer neighborhoods are offered by the ‘burbs.  New Haven has what to counter-offer?  The scenic area around Science Park and housing at significantly higher rental and ownership costs?  We’ll have to do better than that.

posted by: Cedarhillresident on June 25, 2010  9:47am


I agree, despite city halls PR attempt to try to say the city is better, they keep making it harder and more costly to do buss. here. They had the change to do a no tax increase or even better be a city that did a tax decrease….can you imagine how many would of come here if that happened?