It seems to me that many folks get depressed in February, possibly for three reasons. Even though Valentine’s Day makes us feel warm and loved halfway through the month, the cold, snowy winter has something to do with it. Even if it’s not snowing and its raining, it’s still cold rain…the kind that goes right through you.
But February has two more activities that make us uncomfortable – tax return preparations for the calendar year that just ended (and if you have kids in college, you have to do it now so you can fill out the FAFSA form to apply for financial aid), and budget preparations for the school/fiscal year that begins in a little over 4 months. And, if your school is having trouble collecting all the tuition owed by families, or you’re experiencing families that have increasing financial need , such things can be even more depressing.
Two years ago, the tax code of our nation received a drastic overhaul to make things more “simple.” Unfortunately, the only thing it did for a number of families was to decrease their tax refund. As one colleague told me, “I guess no one recognized that they had a little more in their paycheck every other week.” Um, no. People don’t realize small amounts as having a large impact. If you’re blessed to have a net pay check that has four figures in it, unless that second figure changes, one really doesn’t notice it.
Why was that impactful? It affected quite a number of schools negatively, because all those families who have historically paid the tuition for their children when the tax refund check came in were surprised to find that number wasn’t as large as it was in the past. And some may have not received anything at all because they couldn’t itemize their deductions anymore. Now let’s throw in a pandemic where people have been furloughed.
So did schools shift gears in April and May, and change things up for the school year that began in this past July? Interestingly, many did – when it came to curriculum delivery! Some realized that parents were no longer able to bring checks to school, and signed on with a payment plan provider, and were amazed to see their tuition capture success skyrocket! But others said, “We want to maintain some type of normalcy, so we’re not changing anything regarding our tuition capture process.” The result? They’ll continue to have tuition that’s unpaid, but still hoping things will change. Unfortunately, “Hope” is not a strategy.
It’s now more important than ever to utilize a financial aid assessment service which allows your school to maintain control of the process and provide customizations to your school’s financial need formula, AND use a tuition payment plan provider that puts you in control of the process. With more and more families applying for financial aid, it’s important to be able to evaluate their application as soon as possible. It’s also important to have a tuition and fee management and processing service that offers parents payment options since more parents may opt for a payment plan rather than pay the entire tuition before the school year begins.
And today, parents want options, as well as the ability to pay their financial obligations on their mobile device!
The time for in-house preparing, printing, posting and mailing invoices to parents (which they can choose to ignore) is over. Keeping to these practices is one of the main reasons why schools end the year with unpaid tuition balances. The time for making purely subjective decisions regarding the amount of financial aid a family receives is over too. Besides, if your school’s financial committee asks for tax returns to they can verify a family’s financial need, parents may wonder how you’re protecting that data since tax returns have their social security numbers on them.
FACTS is the nation’s largest provider of tuition management as well as need assessment services which are housed on a real-time platform. Parents have only one login username and password to remember.
FACTS allows your school to offer:
– Faster realization of revenue by turning slow-pay families into on-time payers;
– Accommodation of parent requests for changes to their payment plans;
– Convenience for your families, empowering them to make payments and access their payment history;
– Transformational processes to increase in-full and up-front payments to improve your school’s cash flow; and
– Secure and compliant storage of data.
What about other companies that “do the same thing?” The thing to remember is that they’re not the same. If you’ve been a visitor to this site, you’ve read articles about the “commoditization” of education. When parents can’t distinguish the difference between two or more schools, then price becomes the only differentiator…and you’re not going to increase your school’s enrollment nor attract donors if you’re doing the exact same thing that the school down the street from your school does.
Automating the tuition capture process improves your school’s revenue cycle, allowing your school to stop chasing tuition and start chasing enrollment. Remember, the first step to growing enrollment is to keep the students you have – so we’ll focus on retention next week.
And check out the first letters of those bullet points. Makes it very easy to remember.
You can learn more about how FACTS can help your school by visiting http://www.factsmgt.com.
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2006-2021