Not so long ago, Kutztown University found itself struggling to work out flexible tuition payment arrangements for strapped parents.
"It became so cumbersome that it was taking a staff member and a half just to monitor payment plans here," said Wendy Pursell, bursar of the Kutztown, Pa., school.
So two years ago, the university decided to scrap the ad hoc plans and rely solely on Sallie Mae's tuition payment plan, which allows families to spread tuition payments over time, interest-free, with regular payments withdrawn electronically from their checking or savings accounts. Kutztown had built a relationship with Sallie Mae dating back to the 1980s, so it was comfortable expanding the company's role.
With Sallie Mae's tuition payment plan, payments are smaller and more manageable than lump-sum payments made at the start of semesters. In addition, students can check their accounts online and see if payments have been processed so they can register without worries.
For colleges and universities, the tuition payment plan allows school administrators to free up their staff to handle other duties while helping to ensure adequate cash fl ow. It also provides different types of payment plans to meet the diverse needs of today's students, as well as features that most schools would have difficulty implementing on their own.
"They offer reminder billing, so when you sign up for a payment plan they'll send an email saying payment is due," Pursell said. "We were not able to do that."
Kutztown charges $15,350 a year for a Pennsylvania resident's tuition, room, board and other fees, and $24,000 a year for non-state residents. More than 20% of the school's 10,700 students make use of tuition payment plan. That's relatively high, considering 40 percent of the school receives full financial aid. Feedback for the program has been excellent.
"Our families love being able to have a payment plan opportunity that spreads [payments] out over a longer time," Pursell said. "In these economic times, people just don't have the ability to pay a large bill in one lump sum."
Families who use the service pay an application fee, and there are late fees if payments are missed.
Pursell said the service provides quick, easy-to-use information for her staff. Sallie Mae's tuition payment plan accommodates late enrollment students and transfers, and it meets the needs of students who have alternative courses of study that fall outside traditional term structures.
"They have an online portal that I can go into," Pursell said. "Within an hour, I can see if a payment is closed. I can see how much a student paid and review receipts versus disbursements. I can see when families created their plan, and if they altered or changed it. It's very user-friendly."
Sallie Mae has made a number of improvements in the plan's website navigation recently, and Kutztown's page now carries the school's logo and maroon-and-gold colors. And unlike the registrar office, the website is available at any hour families want to access it.
With Sallie Mae's tuition payment plan, each school gets a dedicated account management team to provide support. Sallie Mae strives to resolve any issue within 24 hours. Pursell said Kutztown has had a similar experience.
"I believe they're very customer friendly," she said.
For more information about tuition payment plan, visit SallieMae.com/TPPlan