Payments from parents are the lifeblood of any school, whether it be tuition fees or additional payments for wraparound care, clubs, transport, lunch or any of the other extras that require either one-off or recurring transactions. Each year, the international school sector sees a staggering amount of revenue passing through it, but the practicalities of taking individual payments still raise logistical challenges for staff.
In today’s article, we will look at the productivity gains to be made from streamlining this process, as well as considering how speeding up and simplifying payments could help parents.
Despite the large sums of money passing through international schools, there remain numerous challenges with processing and reconciling payments, which is still a time-consuming process for many school finance teams. Yet, as School Management Plus points out, many international schools operate on tight budgets only made worse by the after-effects of the pandemic and the continuing cost of living increases.
Our own research further enlightens the picture. A survey we carried out in June 2022 around tuition fees billing found that 40% of respondents are still using traditional, manual processes to manage payments, such as spreadsheets, email and paper. In order of importance, the main challenges this creates include:
- Lack of integration: because these manual ways of taking payments lack connection to other processes, it often requires duplicating work across other systems.
- Lack of automation: processes are performed manually that could easily be automated to save time.
- Lack of financial history: manual systems such as spreadsheets make it difficult to show parents a full centralised financial history.
- Disjointedness: manual systems lack the ability to consolidate all your financial activities and reporting across the school.
- Lack of live invoice status updates: manual systems are unable to let you track and view the status of invoicing.
- Visibility: manual systems make it harder to see finance views by student and by product, as well as other performance metrics of interest to school leadership.
Schools need to be able to consolidate all payments and information efficiently, as well as be able to report quickly and accurately to their leadership teams. With time and resources pushed, it stands to reason that finding ways of working more efficiently means your school can do more with less. If you could save time and simplify the reconciliation process, imagine what else you could do with that time to look at ways to increase promotion and marketing of revenue generating activities.
The Parents’ Perspective
Of course, school staff and leadership are not the only parties to benefit from a more streamlined system for taking payments. Parents, too, are looking for a faster and more simple way to pay for all aspects of their life digitally, and that includes school fees and other payments relating to their children’s education.
Not only that, but they have come to expect a digital ‘paper trail’ that gives them visibility over their payment history to date. This fits in with a much wider trend towards mobile app payments, with 1.31 billion people expected to use mobile payment systems by 2023. Is your school keeping up with the times? Answer these questions to find out:
- Does your school provide a smooth, flexible and secure translation service for your parents?
- Do you allow payments in local currencies?
- Does your fee payment system also allow payments for other one-off and recurring expenses incurred during the school year, such as extracurricular activities and school trips?
- Is your payment system joined up with other systems used by your school community, such as your communications platform and calendars?
- Do you have an easy way to issue refunds as credits for cancelled trips and activities?
If your school still relies on manual payment systems and spreadsheets, there are platforms out there offering far more flexibility, that have the potential to increase efficiency and save huge amounts of time. Not only that, but systems such as SchoolsBuddy offer the ability to integrate payments with your activities and events, delivering a more joined-up experience to teachers, admin staff and parents overall. It’s a win for the whole school community!