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Meeting the Campus eCommerce Demands of the Future

Changing expectations for tuition billing and payment options
University Business, July 2017

The new generation of students and parents has a unique perspective on viewing and paying tuition bills, and a different set of expectations when it comes to the e-commerce options available at their college or university. Understanding and responding to these changing expectations is crucial, not only to remain competitive as an institution, but also to improve efficiency and reduce costs by taking advantage of current tools, technologies and strategies in billing and payments.

This web seminar discussed the results of a new survey exploring the expectations that today’s students and parents have when it comes to the billing and payment options provided by colleges and universities. Presenters also outlined strategies and best practices for automating manual processes, reducing costs and improving efficiency while meeting the campus e-commerce demands of the new generation of students and parents.

Steve Kramer

Vice President

ACI Worldwide

Tom Gavin

Senior Sales Executive

ACI Worldwide

Steve Kramer: ACI worked with Aite Group to do a major survey titled “How Americans Pay Their Bills.” We’ve seen a tremendous rise in card payments, especially among the millennial generation, at the expense of paper checks. When you speak to someone in that generation and you use the word “check,” very often you get a blank stare. I have a college-age son, and if I ask him where his checkbook is, it’s always, “I don’t know, it’s somewhere in my room.” That is very different than the preceding generations.

One of the other questions we asked was, “Where do you pay?” By far the No. 1 place is the college or university website. This is absolutely fantastic news for universities. This is where students and parents are coming to pay their bill. It’s another touch point. It’s a way for you to be communicating with your students, and with your parents, and it’s a faster, easier, cheaper method of processing payments.

Tom Gavin: Just a couple of years ago, everyone thought the No. 1 means of payments would be an app. But that has quickly changed to where the app is completely something that students aren’t wanting to engage in for their payment models.

Steve Kramer: So you need to start thinking, “Am I doing everything I need to do in terms of serving the student and the parent at my website? Am I sure that I’m serving up the information they want, the way they want, and making sure it’s a quick and easy transaction for them?”

One of the other things we discovered in doing the survey is the popularity of payment plans—the ability for students or parents to be able to pay multiple times over the course of a semester. We see this as a huge opportunity for universities, because it makes it much easier for a parent or student to afford that college.

Tom Gavin: It also gives them the opportunity to buy a little time. One of the things we’ve seen recently is the popularity of a biweekly payment plan, particularly for community colleges where students or the younger generation are making those payments. They get paid biweekly, so they want that tuition money to be pulled out before they spend it.

Steve Kramer: We also surveyed about the most important factors in the payment experience. The data was absolutely fascinating. Millennials rated security No. 1, not speed. When we hear more and more about data breaches and account takeovers, it becomes more and more important to not only make sure that what you’re doing is secure, but to make sure that the person you’re interacting with is aware that it’s secure and feels like it’s secure. If they don’t, you’re going to lose that interaction.

Speed obviously is important for both millennials and Generation X, as well as ease of use, and those two very much go hand-in-hand. It’s equally as important in the posting of the payment. How quickly will the university be notified that their payment has been made and their account updated? They expect the money to move immediately, and to get credit for it immediately.

We also surveyed about how people are receiving bills today. About 40 percent of them do e-bill only. That’s terrific. E-billing is a great communication tool, and it’s also cheaper and easier for the university.

Tom Gavin: I don’t think the millennials even know when they’re getting a paper bill, or even where their mailbox is.

Steve Kramer: My son says no one his age checks their mail, or people take the stuff out of the mailbox and just throw it in a trash bucket or into recycling.

Tom Gavin: That’s exactly right.

Steve Kramer: The big question is if students are getting both paper and electronic bills then why is that happening and how can we reduce that? And how do you drive more consumers toward electronic?

Tom Gavin: Sometimes you do have to incentivize them to make that transition, and also to save you money at the same time as you make that move. We always want to say that we’re secure, we’re easy and we’re fast. Those are the three bullet points that most of the industry utilizes in the payment world, and those are the answers that are important for millennials.

Institutions are realizing the benefits of having a tight integration with their e-Commerce provider. There are actual benefits, in terms of saving time and saving money, and it gives staff the freedom to cater to their students, or to help reconcile or to answer questions related to billing and things of those nature.

Also, as the integration is tighter and it’s built right into the ERP system, you see a reduction in the IT time needed to manage that system. So you also have improved operational efficiencies.

Real-time integration is key as well, but only about 50 percent have it. The millennials want it now. There is opportunity to open up all those additional channels to provide more options for them to make payments.

Steve Kramer: Sixty percent of universities are launching new billing and payment options. I think that’s terrific. But it leaves about 40 percent that are not looking at this—they are not going to be meeting the consumers, the students, where the students want to be met, and offering them the solutions that they expect in the market. So many of the students and their parents are used to Amazon and that frictionless method of making payments, of buying. If they don’t get that elsewhere, there’s frustration. One-click pay is one of the greatest inventions because it makes it easy to click and pay. We should be offering that in bills as well, making it easier for both the students and the parents.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, visit www.universitybusiness.com/ws050417

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