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Payment Platforms: Taking A Complete Approach to Student Success

Using technology to provide flexible plan options
University Business, June 2018

When the leadership of the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in Pennsylvania began searching for a new platform for campus payments, they knew that student success relies on great technology in the business office as well as the classroom. They also knew that with the right payment options and plans, they could ensure that the college’s affordable, quality education was even more accessible to members of the community.

This webcast featured the bursar from CCAC, Ken Bush, who described the approach they took for selecting a new payment platform; highlighted how they combined software, processing and services to create a complete, integrated and efficient user experience for both students and staff; and provided some tips for doing the same at any institution.

Speakers

Ken Bush
Bursar
Community College of Allegheny County (Penn.)

Heather Richmond
Senior Director, Marketing and Product Management
TouchNet

Ken Bush: We have a motto at CCAC: “Our goal is your success.” We want every student who comes through the door to be successful, not just in the classroom, but outside of the classroom as well.

Heather Richmond: That’s what’s most important. You think about technology and how it enhances the classroom experience, but also from the business and the operations sides, you want them to have that same experience. At the same time that you’re looking at how we can advance with technology, there are rules and regulations around payments and technology, right?

Ken Bush: I call it the perfect storm. It started in October 2015. There were three different things happening.

First, there was a larger use of credit and debit cards with the chip. I knew that CCAC wasn’t prepared to accept chip-embedded cards, which meant that with a fraudulent purchase the college would be responsible for those charges.

The second thing was that the Department of Education came out with new cash management roles that changed the way colleges and universities processed student refunds.

Third, the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) was coming down on collection agencies. I wanted to implement a student financial responsibility agreement at CCAC and we were able to do that through TouchNet, which kept us in compliance those three big changes. We needed a strategic partner that not only understood payment processing and all the various services, but also understood higher education.

Heather Richmond: I know another big piece was that you needed to have integration with your ERP system.

Ken Bush: Absolutely. With TouchNet we’re able to have real-time integration. It was a no-brainer for us. We implemented the payment center with EMV client and transaction services. We did this all under one umbrella, which is great because it allows us to take in-line payments and online payments as well. We also implemented the bill payment suite—that’s everything from our electronic bills, our e-1098-Ts, 
e-refunds and online payment plans.  

Heather Richmond: I know that it was important for you to comply with CFPB in asking for consent.  

Ken Bush: Going into our implementation with TouchNet, I wanted to implement a student financial responsibility agreement, but I wasn’t sure how. I was pleasantly surprised when I became aware of the consent manager halfway into the implementation. It’s worked great. We have it set up so that the first time the student goes to the account center, they are provided with a pop-up window that presents the full student financial responsibility agreement. We’ve had 100 percent participation.  

Heather Richmond: If you start adding up all of the systems that you’ve transitioned from manual to electronic, you’re saving a ton of money and a ton of staff time, while also providing that better student experience.  

Ken Bush: Exactly. Again, it’s going back to our mission of allowing students to be successful. We’re giving them the tools not only in the classroom, but also outside the classroom, to be able to manage their student accounts, and make payments, etc.

Heather Richmond: Another part of that student success is the ability to get on a payment plan at no charge.  

Ken Bush: We do offer a tuition payment plan, and we’ve opted to make it interest-free with no enrollment fee. Our college president didn’t want any barriers to students. If they want to do a payment plan, chances are they need a payment plan—they don’t have extra cash to be able to pay an enrollment fee and interest. Prior to TouchNet, we had roughly 1,900 students on a payment plan. Now we have close to 3,000. It’s been a very nice feature for the students.

Another part that’s been great is the auto-adjustment feature. A lot of times after a student enrolls in a payment plan, their numbers can change. They may lose financial aid, they may get additional financial aid, they may drop a class. With TouchNet, the payment plan is automatically adjusted through a batch process every day, and students are automatically notified.  

Heather Richmond: What are your recovery numbers now that you have Recover Select?  

Ken Bush: Since we implemented, we have resolved over 5,000 accounts, which has equated close to $3 million. It’s pretty impressive, and significant. And because we’re not paying a collection agency, we pay a flat fee for each account instead of a 35 percent commission. Also, those students aren’t referred to a collection agency, so there’s no negative impact to their credit rating. Plus, they’re back in school. It’s allowing the student to be successful.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit universitybusiness.com/ws042618