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Simplifying the Campus Commerce Experience

Meeting the needs and expectations of students and parents
University Business, December 2018
Top row, left to right: Tom Gavin Sr., New Business Development, ACI Worldwide; Sandra Jackson, Business Office Manager, Roanoke College (Va.). Bottom row, left to right: Mitzi Steele, Database Director, Roanoke College (Va.); Marc Sczesnak, Director of Product Management, ACI Worldwide.
Top row, left to right: Tom Gavin Sr., New Business Development, ACI Worldwide; Sandra Jackson, Business Office Manager, Roanoke College (Va.). Bottom row, left to right: Mitzi Steele, Database Director, Roanoke College (Va.); Marc Sczesnak, Director of Product Management, ACI Worldwide.

Technology has not only revolutionized teaching and learning in higher ed, but also how tuition payments are made and campus commerce is conducted. However, today’s payment technologies can be a source of frustration for students and parents. Simplifying the campus commerce experience and improving payment communications are crucial for increasing student and parent satisfaction.

This web seminar featured a panel discussion focused on how payment preferences are changing, which strategies can simplify campus commerce, and how a modernized payment system can meet the needs and expectations of Generation Zers and their parents.

Speakers

Tom Gavin
Sr. New Business Development
ACI Worldwide

Sandra Jackson
Business Office Manager
Roanoke College (Va.)

Mitzi Steele
Database Director
Roanoke College (Va.)

Marc Sczesnak
Director of Product Management
ACI Worldwide

Tom Gavin: Technology seems to be moving so fast. How has it been for you trying to keep up with payment technology at Roanoke College?

Sandra Jackson: Being a four-year private institution, we have student accounts in the students’ names, but a large percentage of our payers are parents. So we still need to have pathways that get bills to parents and give them the opportunity to make payments without their students necessarily being logged in. Communication to both parents and students is a priority.

Tom Gavin: What changes has Roanoke College seen over the years?

Mitzi Steele: The biggest change we’ve seen is how people want to use the technology, with devices like phones or iPads. It used to be that people just went to a website and logged in, but now we need to make sure those devices are secure when parents, students or whoever is trying to make a payment.

Tom Gavin: How is Roanoke planning for new payment features?

Mitzi Steele: We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve, and we’re taking a lot of pride in making sure that we’re not falling behind on technology. Some of it is listening to our students to understand what their concerns and needs are, and then trying to address those concerns as we implement new ways of making payments.

Tom Gavin: How does tech enable a better campus commerce experience?

Sandra Jackson: When you go to e-billing and e-paying, and manage that online, just the availability of that 24/7 is one of the biggest steps that you make, because it enables students and parents to pay at their convenience, rather than during your office hours. This is especially true during significant times at the college, when you’re doing preregistration or housing selection.

Tom Gavin: What advice would you share with other institutions?

Mitzi Steele: Listen to what your students and parents say. They are the ones who are driving your business, and we have to listen to them and be aware of what changes are happening out in the world that would improve their payment experience.

Sandra Jackson: Periodically—certainly no less than once per year—review your vendor contract and see what new features are out there.

Marc Sczesnak: In terms of what students and parents are looking for, there’s often worry about missing payments, getting calls and racking up late-payment fees. Those seem to be the three topics that a lot of people are concerned about when it comes to managing their payment experience.

Our survey indicated that 51 percent of students and parents feel payment plans would make them worry less about the cost of college. So why are payment plan enrollments so low? Part of that seems to be that the solution available to them is through a stand-alone payment plan website—it’s not necessarily integrated with the payment experience, and it’s not necessarily branded to the institution, so there is some fear about whether this is a sanctioned payment mechanism that’s being offered by your university. Another reported reason is that enrollment was optional for people paying late.

Can modern payments decrease calls? Obviously calls take up a lot of time in the bursar’s office. Ninety-two percent of students and parents say secure website information could prevent calls, and 90 percent of refunds to debit cards within 30 days could also potentially eliminate a lot of calls.

Can modern payment experiences decrease the number of late payments? Absolutely. Having multiple forms of tender available for people can help to alleviate worries—so debit and credit cards in addition to ACH options can drive satisfaction. Also helpful: providing text messaging reminders that the payment is due, and giving an option to make the payment on a cell phone or tablet.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit universitybusiness.com/ws102518