April: The Importance of Offering Parents Customized Payment Plans

Remember when “swiping” was a bad thing?  20 years ago, if someone swiped a card, that meant someone didn’t pay for a birthday or anniversary greeting from the local supermarket or drug store.  Today, swiping a card is how someone pays for that greeting card.

Lots of things have changed in the past 20 years.  Not just terminology, but clothing styles, the geo-political climate, security at airports, automobile design, technology, educational environments, lesson plans and teaching strategies.  Research has shown even students’ brains have changed.  When one considers all those things that have changed, the realization is that pretty much everything has changed.

Yet, there are still schools who are intent on doing “business as usual” as they have done for decades.  If parents can’t afford to pay tuition in one up-front payment, then payments are offered over ten months.  Why?  It’s easy to divide by 10.  And, when you’re tracking payment records on index cards or in a spiral-bound notebook, it’s best to keep things simple.

Unfortunately, that’s not the expectation of today’s parents.  They expect personalized and specialized treatment.  They want payment options that suit their pay schedules.  If their mortgage or rent payment is due the first of the month, and your tuition payment is due the first of the month, guess which payment gets priority.

Some parents might want to pay monthly on the 23rd of the month, simply because there aren’t any other bills due at that time.  Some parents might want to pay bi-weekly since that’s how they get paid.  Some parents may budget their bills weekly rather than monthly.  Some parents might want to pay a little of their tuition obligation at the start of the school year, but with a lump sum “balloon” payment after their bonus is received or their income tax refund is received.  Some parents may want to pay over 9 months, but others may need 12 months.  Some parents might even want 6 payments due every other month.

What’s important to remember is that the mindset of the customer has changed, primarily influenced by technology.  If the customer has a unsatisfying experience, they will normally do three things:

  1. Complain to others about it;
  2. Post comments about their experience on social media apps; and/or
  3. Seek an alternative solution.

What does this mean for your school’s tuition billing practices?  If your school expects that parents will either pay tuition for their children in full or over 10 monthly payments, and does not provide accommodation for their individual preferences or circumstances, you might find that they just don’t pay…even though they said they would abide by your financial policies.

Also, you might find that today’s Millennial parents EXPECT you to send them a bill or a reminder of a payment.  Even though they know their payments are due on a particular day of the month, if you don’t send them something to remind them, they think they’ve been given a reprieve of some sort.  After all, if you want your money, you’re obligated to remind them of their responsibility.  What’s quite interesting is that this is completely congruent with a quote from the great writer Samuel Johnson:

“People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”

Today’s parents are members of the generation that will not necessarily make sacrifices to meet the needs of your school, but they will gladly pay for outstanding experiences!  Just as in any other place of business today, the voice of the customer is a voice that must be heeded, or the business may find themselves out of business.

Because of this, it makes sense to use a tuition management provider that can offer customized payment plans for parents.  Using a third-party, like FACTS, to do billing for your school’s tuition and fees provides a real-time payment platform for parents, mobile payment options and a comprehensive, customizable, compliant and secure solution to mitigate the risk associated with collecting checks and cash at your school.

What about those families that have disenrolled their children from your school, and still have a balance owed to your school?  Some thoughts about that coming your way next month.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2015-2017