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Ferris State parents, students take care of school business with ease

TouchNet U.Commerce provides framework for administering e-payments securely, efficiently
University Business, Nov 2011

"Ferris State saved between $40,000 and $60,000 after moving to online billing and payments. Plus, fewer employees are needed to process commerce transactions university-wide."

Whether paying tuition or sending a goody bag to a child cramming for finals, Ferris State University parents get it done with the click of a mouse.

The Michigan-based public university, which has about 14,500 students, uses TouchNet U.Commerce as its unified commerce framework to administer electronic payments and other business transactions with security and efficiency.

"TouchNet enhances everything that goes through our main database," said Erin Diehm, business operations systems manager at Ferris State. "It makes it much easier to function.

"A parent can go to the housing website, enter information, and through a secure website hosted by TouchNet, order a goody bag for their student," Diehm said. "Before this, housing would get a lot of checks and cash, and they'd have to keep everything secure and process it quickly. This way, everything is online and they don't have to handle cash in their office."

The U.Commerce system extends the TouchNet Payment Gateway that Ferris State acquired in 2004. "We wanted to build on the Payment Gateway," Diehm said. "Now we have e-bills, online payments, cashiering and an online marketplace."

With the TouchNet system, Ferris State students receive their first e-bill statement at the beginning of each semester, along with a paper bill that is mailed to their home address. Subsequent monthly bills are electronic only, and students are encouraged to grant access to parents or other authorized users who may make payments for them.

Ferris State also uses TouchNet Cashiering for payments made in person. The transactions are balanced out, the bank deposit is prepared, and all the information is posted to the university's ERP system. Cashiering also allows some paper checks to be converted to electronic debit transactions, which minimizes what must be prepared and delivered in the daily bank deposit.

Another component, TouchNet Marketplace, allows any university department to set up a website to sell items, register participants for an event or provide services. For ease of use, customers are directed to the online store through the particular department's website. Marketplace is particularly popular with the alumni office, student technology services and advancement, and is used by 21 departments altogether.

Electronic billing alone has saved the university between $40,000 and $60,000, Diehm said. In addition, fewer employees are needed to process various university-wide commerce transactions, which saves time and money. And the university has reduced payment costs by an additional $500,000 a year by including TouchNet's PayPath Convenience Fee Service in its campus commerce strategy.

Also of value, the TouchNet system helps with regulatory compliance because financial data and credit card transactions are routed through TouchNet's secure network rather than the school's network.

"It's easier to run reports and do balancing with Touch- Net than our previous systems," added Diehm. "And Touch- Net's client services are amazing. They always resolve our issues. That's been really nice."

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