The responsibility of paying tuition on time may lie on the student, but how many colleges ask themselves: “How do we create a culture that fosters timely payments?” Creating an environment that encourages and enables students to pay on time is a crucial step colleges are beginning to take. How can your business office join in? Here are some concrete examples:
Create a Student-First Culture
Relay to students and families that the school is on the same team. The school understands that the student wants an education and the school wants to provide it without interruption. Your business office’s attitude should be, “What can we do to help get the bill paid so you can continue with classes?”
Allow students to access and pay their tuition balance online 24/7 through a tuition payment portal. Reach students where they are at. Over 50% of all web browsing is done on mobile devices. The numbers among millennials are even greater. Make sure your website, student accounts, and tuition management system are mobile friendly.
Be in Communication with Your Students
In any healthy relationship, communication is key. Communicate payment policies and options clearly and in advance. Colleges experiencing success in collecting past-due balances tend to have clear, concise, and robust student financial responsibility agreements, which students generally sign at registration.
Consider having students sign promissory notes for tuition. While promissory notes do not have the legal status of a loan contract, they nevertheless outline the terms of payment as well as consequences of non-payment. Students must know that delinquent payments may result in repercussions such as being dropped from classes, withholding of transcripts, or their balance being turned over to a collection agency.
When tuition has not been paid, be proactive. Notify students immediately when they are past due and provide options to make payments, setup an automatic payment plan. Send email reminders with a link to “Pay Now” online through your school payment portal.
Build Campuswide Support
Other departments should work together to succeed in campus collections. Any involved faculty or staff should relay the message of “we’re on your side” and direct students to the finance office where concrete steps can be taken to address their account.
It is much each easier to direct students to resources when they aren’t too far behind and the case is being handled in-house. Neither you nor your student wants their account sent to collections. Importantly, the students need to know that your college genuinely cares about its students and wants them to succeed.