Paying on Time > Paying the Consequences

Amy Jenkins
November 6, 2023

Every parent of a teenager, or threenager, or, actually, of any aged kid ever, knows that most consequences rarely work.  “If you don’t clean up your room, you lose the iPad” will sometimes encourage your kid to pick up their “floordrobe” but is more likely to end with a messy room and a cranky child. “Do your homework or you can’t go out tonight” has a similar result.  If the work gets done it is likely done poorly, and your teenager may just decide they don’t want to go out anyway and keep scrolling on their phone.

Childcare experts like Dr Becky have confirmed it: consequences don’t work but connections do.  But what does that have to do with being a Bursar or Director of Student Accounts?  Turns out, a lot!

I talk to leaders on college campuses across the country and hear the complaints about late payments.  And how those late payments lead to consequences that they don’t want to give and that students don’t want to receive: registration holds, late fees and transcript holds to name a few. For lack of a carrot all they have available to them is a stick.  Because there is often no connection they are not able to be an ally and instead are perceived as a villain.

And nobody wants to be a villain.

So what’s a bursar to do?

We wanted to help and knew that to do that, we needed to first understand: why do students pay late?  We went straight to the source and learned that 40% have paid late at least once and 58% attributed their delay to confusing bills, including unexplained charges, unclear due dates, and amounts due.  31% said the billing portal was hard to navigate and 46% of students stated that they would be more inclined to engage in the billing process if communications were more straightforward and clear.

Students want clarity. Point well taken.

The expectations of students today are different.  They are used to things that are mobile first, friendly, and easy.  And most of these words aren’t how schools would describe their own processes.

But for the schools that are doing things differently and sending communications that are more engaging, presenting bills that are less confusing, and making payments a breeze, they find themselves putting that stick away.

Students take notice when it is easy.  They engage when you make the communications engaging.  They share more when you make it easy for them to do so (and make it easy to do it on their phones).  And when they understand their bills? They pay them.  Just ask any school that is using Meadow!

We start by sending the right message at the right time and through the right channel.  We personalize the emails (who wants to open an email that says “dear student”?!?) and include amounts and due dates.  We focus on the quality and not the quantity of the communications.

We show a bill with real words that students understand and tool tips and explanations of the charges.  For many students this may be the first bill they’ve ever had to pay, so we walk them through it.

And when it is time to pay we offer the payment methods they expect - from ACH to credit card to Apple Pay and make that fast and easy too.   The last thing we want is extra steps or a difficult to navigate portal - if a student (or parent) is ready to pay, we make it happen!

And this all adds up.  

More students paying on time means less students paying the consequences.  And that is good for everyone. 

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