If you want students to pay their bills, don’t email them.
January 10, 2024
Well, you should still email them, but, if that’s all you do, you’re not meeting students where they are.
And if you don’t meet them where they are, the chances of them paying go down significantly.
When it comes to the emotionally charged experience of paying tuition, it is key to give your communication strategy regular attention to understand how your college or university can keep up with the rapid pace of how students prefer to engage.
Student engagement is not a numbers game; it's about delivering the right message at the right time through the right channels. In a world where they are inundated with information and asks, students respond positively to clear, concise, and targeted communication. Confusing messages can exacerbate the emotional toll of paying tuition for the first time (as well as the mental toll!), making it imperative for colleges to adopt effective communication strategies.
Think Beyond Email
We compiled a set of recommendations for student financial services leaders based on our experience helping 50+ partners improve their communication about billing. One of our first recommendations we give a new partner is to think beyond email. Let’s explore what that means.
Embrace Mobile Communication
The landscape of communication has shifted, with students preferring mobile channels over traditional methods. According to a survey by Meadow in 2023, a staggering 52% of students favor text messages over paper mail (26%) or phone calls (22%). Leveraging text messaging is not just a trend; it's a proven strategy. According to a study by education technology company Blackboard, institutions using text messaging for tuition communication experienced a 32% increase in on-time payments.
Surround Students with Strategic Messaging
The marketing "rule of 7" means you need to expose someone to a message around seven times to drive action. Student engagement around billing is no exception. A creative exercise you can do with your team (or even with students themselves!) is map out a student's day to identify key access points for viewing bills. Practical examples include flyers with QR codes in high-traffic areas, presentation slides during orientation, website pop-ups at strategic times, and office banners in administrative spaces.
Explore all recommendations in “What to Say When You Need Them to Pay”
Whether your institution has 20,000 or 1,500 students, one fundamental truth remains: improving the quality of communication and reaching students through their preferred channels at the right time will yield positive outcomes. When the journey of paying tuition becomes a seamless and less stressful experience for everyone involved, you position yourself as a true partner to students, drive better payment outcomes, and reduce the workload on your staff.
What are you waiting for? Check out the full report here.
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