Are you frustrated by the amount of time and energy you and your team spend collecting tuition payments? You’re not alone. Managing tuition is a multi-faceted challenge that can derail even the most organized and efficient school business offices.
What's worse is that what should be a simple and straightforward process can become so labor-intensive, it impedes your school's ability to meet other crucial objectives.
For example, when you and your staff are bogged down by collecting and processing payments, and chasing down late tuition, you have less time to spend building relationships with current and prospective students and their families. Not to mention, it can be difficult to determine how to meet all your school’s needs with unreliable cash flow.
The good news is, it’s not hopeless.
Here are five ways your school can increase its tuition collection rates so you can reduce payment delays, improve cash flow, and give hardworking business office pros more time back in their day, starting with:
- Clearly communicate payment instructions
- Establish well-defined payment options
- Send automatic tuition reminders
- Simplify tuition payment solutions
- Streamline overdue payment outreach
One of the biggest culprits behind excessive late payments is a complicated or poorly defined payment procedure. Like you, your students’ families are busy with jam-packed schedules and mile-long to-do lists. If making a payment is confusing or requires too much time, they’re more likely to put it off as long as possible.
That’s why it’s helpful to create a straightforward process and explain it as succinctly as possible. Managing tuition may seem simple, but we know a lot of strategic work goes into it.
Here are a few ways you can accomplish this:
- Send automated emails with clear, step-by-step payment instructions.
- Make payment due dates highly visible on your website and parent portal.
- Communicate your process often and continually refresh parents during information sessions, open houses, and orientation.
- Record a video explanation or webinar that demonstrates the payment process with a user-friendly explanation of each step.
2. Establish Well-Defined Payment Options
Part of managing tuition involves making sure your parents know how they can pay.
- Can they set up automatic payments via a bank account direct debit (ACH)?
- Will you accept cash at your school?
- Does your school accept credit cards? If so, which ones?
Additionally, make sure your parents understand any consequence of paying late. Is there a late charge? If so, how is it applied? Providing more clarity increases on-time income for your school and reduces parent frustration.
Do you offer payment plans or allow families to split tuition into multiple installments over a period of time? If so, be sure to clarify this immediately and provide all the necessary information upfront.
Paying tuition as one lump sum can be challenging for some families, and can be one of the reasons they’re not able to pay on time. Giving families the ability to make smaller payments will not only make things easier for them, but it can help you eliminate late payments — which will drive more consistent cash flow for your school.
Like payment instructions, it’s useful to provide all of your tuition details on your website, within your enrollment management system, your parent portal, and be discuss it during orientation.
3. Send Tuition Reminders
In a perfect world, no one would ever forget to pay a bill or make a payment. But parents have a lot on their plates, and it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks.
As an admission and enrollment professional, you and your team don’t have the bandwidth to manually send reminder messages to each and every family as payment due dates draw closer. Neither do business offices. However, an automated system can alleviate the burden and help you keep everyone on track.
A powerful billing and tuition management system, like Finalsite's SchoolAdmin, will allow you the ability to set reminders for parents (both individually and in mass) directly from the platform, without having to export data and send messages from another system.
4. Simplify Tuition Payment Submission
Nobody likes a cumbersome payment process. If you’re requiring too many steps, or fail to offer a convenient online payment solution, then you can expect overdue payments to continue.
Today, parents are accustomed to streamlined mobile payment experiences like PayPal, Venmo, and the variety of simple e-commerce payment solutions across the web. They want a solution that allows them to submit a payment in a few seconds — not several minutes. It’s essential you meet their expectations by giving them the ability to make payments anytime, from anywhere, through a user-friendly parent portal.
Parents should be able to log in, submit a tuition payment, and move on with their day. And the right software can make this possible.
Using billing software that integrates with your school’s admissions and enrollment management software can also alleviate the burden of tuition management on both teams. Additionally, it can make the admission process and re-enrollment even more seamless for your families.
5. Streamline Overdue Payment Outreach
Managing tuition means reaching out to parents with overdue payments and attempting to settle those accounts as quickly as possible. But making these phone calls can eat up a significant portion of your day.
While sending reminders will ease this burden proactively, there will always be some parents who still forget to pay or are unable to complete the payment before the deadline. In those cases, you might opt to automate this outreach.
Unfortunately, robocalls are impersonal, often ineffective, and can sometimes frustrate parents or leave them with a bad impression of your institution. It can be tricky to balance the human and digital customer experience. But finding the right balance can lead to great success. Outsourcing this outreach to a call center can help you save time. But, if the reps who place the calls don’t understand your school’s processes, it can be equally as risky as robocalls. Outsourcing your calls also creates an extra expense for your team, which may not be plausible.
Instead, make sure you’re working with a team of knowledgeable, empathetic specialists who won’t jeopardize your relationship with the families you serve. On the contrary, having the right support can lead to happier families and a happier team. And having a human point of contact can bring balance to your overall automated tuition management process.
Managing tuition can be challenging, but you can eliminate many of the headaches you and your team face by investing in the right technology. By evolving your processes and implementing powerful tuition and billing software, you can give hardworking business office pros more time back in their day, so you can get back to focusing on the most important aspect of your job: building and maintaining relationships.