Anyone responsible for ensuring that school tuition payments are collected on time knows what a challenging process it is. It took a lot of time and effort even before the pandemic hit.
When it did, many families struggled to make timely payments, which caused cash flow problems for numerous schools and other educational organizations across the country.
So, if you’re among those tasked with ensuring sufficient cash flow for your organization by collecting tuition payments on time, what can you do?
Here are five best practices.
Be Clear About Your Payment Policy
Making your school’s payment policy as clear as possible from the very beginning is the first step towards a smoother tuition collection process.
Put simply, when students’ parents or caregivers understand their obligations and the consequences of not fulfilling them, they’re more likely to pay tuition on time.
So, what would a clear tuition payment policy include?
First, it should be brief and easy to understand, since complicated or vague payment instructions can lead clients to put payment off, either because they don’t understand the policy, or because it unintentionally allows them to do so.
Naturally, the due dates for tuition payments (annual or monthly) should be clearly stated, like in this example.
Source: Steeple School
As you can see, the due dates are clearly stated and highlighted, and clients are informed that monthly payments will be subject to a $10 administration fee.
Another good thing here is that the school divided monthly payments into ten instead of twelve monthly installments.
As the last tuition payment is set prior to the school year’s end, it gives administrators enough time to address any late tuition payments before the summer break.
Of course, these due dates and payment instructions should not only be part of your organization’s standard tuition contract, but should also be easy to find on the school’s website and communicated during enrollment and orientation.
The next thing is the policy clearly stating what happens when payments are late, as shown here.
Source: Steeple School
Although this may seem straightforward, some clients might, due to financial troubles or other reasons, take advantage of the 10-day grace period and pay on the 10th of each month.
Therefore, your school should consider downplaying the grace period (even when allowed) to avoid encouraging payments after the due date, but before the late fee is charged.
Naturally, those clients unable to make their monthly payment on time should be informed of what they can do (discuss payment options) and what will happen if they don’t, as highlighted below.
Source: Steeple School
Moreover, when discussing payment options with such clients, you should encourage them to pay at least a part of their tuition because it might be even more difficult for them to cover their past due amounts later.
Overall, setting a clear payment policy, making sure it’s brief and straightforward, and that the students’ parents or guardians understand their obligations and the consequences of not meeting them can make the entire tuition collection process smoother from the start.
Offer a Range of Different Payment Options
If your school wants to improve timely tuition collection, it should offer a range of different payment options to choose from.
In other words, if a school offers only payment options where clients have to come to the school to pay or mail a check, that can affect their tuition payments and even lower the number of newly enrolled students.
Therefore, schools should expand their payment options beyond cash and paper checks to accept payments such as credit cards, bank transfers, debit cards, digital wallets, or e-checks.
Source: The New School
Whatever payment methods your school decides to offer, they should be listed on the school website and the payment policy should specify whether clients will be charged any additional payment processing fees.
That way, parents can choose the most convenient payment method for them, which, in turn, makes it more likely that they will pay the tuition on time.
In addition, this strategy will reassure potential clients who are concerned about making tuition payments that they will have a range of payment options to do so.
To reassure them further, your school should also offer different payment plans and incentives, such as discounts for parents with multiple children attending the school.
Source: Steeple School
Likewise, you can offer discounts for upfront payment of the whole (or certain) tuition amount.
When coupled together, accepting a wide range of online payment methods and offering different payment plans and discounts can streamline the tuition collection process, reduce the number of late payments, and even attract a higher number of new students.
Why? Because in light of the rising living costs and increasing school tuition prices, these methods can help families experiencing financial hardship to enroll and keep their child(ren) in your school.
To stress the importance of offering various payment options as a way to relieve financial concerns parents might have, consider the average private school tuition cost shown below, courtesy of Private School Review:
Source: Private School Review
Additionally, remember that each payment method offered by your school should be followed with clear instructions that, in a simple way, explain how to make the payment, step by step.
In summary, offering a range of different payment methods and options that allow parents to choose the most convenient one for them can go a long way in collecting tuition payments on time.
Automate the Process of Collecting Tuition
Even if your school is already accepting online payment methods, there are still many potential hiccups in the payment process that could result in late tuition payments.
The collection process consists of many administrative tasks, from collecting and updating the invoicing information, sending invoices and reminder emails, and tracking payments, most of which schools still handle manually.
Therefore, automating the tuition collection process from start to finish can be an efficient way to avoid such issues and receive payments on time.
One of the best ways to do that is to use an automated billing software like Regpack that allows schools to establish a secure payment portal for parents or guardians where they can sign in, check their personal payment plan, and pay their tuition installment in a few clicks.
This auto-billing feature can save a lot of time and energy for school administrators while providing parents with a convenient and quick online payment method.
Here’s what their automated billing schedule can look like.
You can use this feature to create personalized tuition installment plans and automate payment collection.
In other words, you just have to set up the payment parameters and automations, and Regpack will do the rest.
It should also be noted that Regpack will also seamlessly embed a secure online payment form into your school website, so there’s no need to worry about the secure processing of online payment methods.
Of course, before deciding what software to use, you and your team should research different options, identify what features your school needs, and take advantage of free web demos and consultations.
You should also make sure that the billing software of your choice can be integrated with other digital solutions your school uses, such as accounting software or admissions and enrollment management software.
Although recurring billing software is used across different industries, it’s particularly beneficial for organizations selling higher-priced services or products, as schools do.
In conclusion, automating the tuition collection process by using billing software is an efficient way for schools to “outsource” many otherwise manual administrative tasks and provide clients with a convenient way to pay their tuition installments, thus reducing late payments.
Send Email Reminders Before the Due Date
Sending email reminders before the tuition is due is another good business practice that can help schools collect tuition payments on time.
First, even though their children are their top priority, families can still forget to pay their tuition installments, which is not surprising when we consider everything that’s going on in our busy lives.
Therefore, politely reminding them about their obligation in an email before the due date is up can be a great way to avoid having to send late payment emails.
As for how to write upcoming payment reminder emails, our article shown below contains many helpful tips that can be easily customized for different purposes, including school tuition payments.
Among several essential elements that make for effective email reminders, when to send them is often cited as one of the most important.
First, schools should refrain from sending email reminders about an upcoming tuition payment too frequently while there is still enough time before the due date, as that can frustrate parents and indicate your school’s lack of trust in them.
Instead, sending a single, well-timed upcoming tuition payment reminder can be just what parents need to refresh their memory and avoid making a late payment.
Second, although the timing of reminders is not an exact science and depends on many different factors, a general rule of five to seven business days is considered a common courtesy, so families have sufficient time to pay tuition or address any issues they might have.
As for which weekdays and at what times are best, here’s an overview of aggregated findings of 14 email marketing studies.
To make sure these email reminders always reach clients at the designated time, it’s best to automate them, which is a standard feature offered by recurring billing software like Regpack.
Of course, if the reminder didn’t work and the tuition payment is late, the follow-up email should be sent 1-2 days after the due date, and so on.
Overall, a single well-timed, well-written email reminder before the due date can be just what your students’ busy families need to make their tuition payments on time.
Reach Out Through Text Messaging
Reaching out through text messaging to remind parents about their upcoming tuition payment is another great method schools can use to improve their collection process.
Although somewhat comparable to email reminders, text messaging is a more direct form of communication that can be even more effective as parents, just like their children, spend a lot of time on their smartphones.
In fact, studies show that texting is the most used smartphone feature even by those over 50 years old (92%), while that percentage is only higher among younger generations (98% for those over 30 and 100% for those aged 18-29).
This means that, when schools reach out, parents are much more likely to see a text message reminding them to pay tuition.
Source: Home Tuition Guide
Of course, such messages can be sent over popular mobile communication platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, but it turns out that using good oldSMS messages might be the best way.
That’s because research indicates that 90% of all SMS messages are immediately opened, while the total percentage of read SMS messages stands at 98%.
Therefore, this type of text messaging gives you the best chance that your payment reminders will reach their target.
Of course, when done manually, sending SMS messages to all parents a few days before the tuition payment due date would be colossally time-consuming and might prove too expensive.
Therefore, schools should look to integrate automated text messaging as part of their tuition collection policy.
For instance, Text-Em-All offers a great platform to improve the tuition collection rate.
This platform comes with innovative automated scheduling that can help you plan those tuition payment reminders well in advance and offers customizable templates to give each message a personal touch.
It also allows you to text-enable your school office’s phone number, so parents know who it’s from.
Overall, making shorter SMS reminders a part of your collection policy and automating the process can ensure that practically all your school’s messages will be open and read, thus helping collect tuition payments on time.
So, we’ve covered the five best practices that can help your school manage tuition effectively and collect payments promptly.
All that’s left is to remind you that, although collecting tuition payments on time may be challenging, there are clever ways that can streamline the process, from being clear about your payment policy and offering various payment options to automating the collection process, email reminders, and text messages.