Expert Viewpoint

Four Ways Schools Benefit from Revamping Payments through Digitization

There are an impossible number of items, products and services to pay for in both public and private schools. While tuition is probably top of mind, other everyday expenses add up. Families need to pay for prom or school dance fees, extracurricular activities, sports charges, musical instrument rentals, lunch cards, library fundraising, charitable PTA causes, and more.

With all of these fees, parents can become easily confused about how and when to pay them. Regardless of where kids are enrolled in K–12 education, schools have an opportunity to revolutionize payments through technology.

Schools operate with a wide range of departments, practices and procedures, all of which tend to work independently under the school administration. When departments or individuals need to collect payment for any number of functions mentioned above, they often rely on manual or third-party payment services that may not be the same.

For example, the music department might have one way of collecting money for the spring recital, the student government may need to collect cash from their fellow students for an upcoming class trip and the bursar has a completely different way of collecting enrollment fees.

Additionally, parents find it challenging to rely on their children to act as a go-between when filling out and relaying forms or submitting checks for any type of payment. Oftentimes, it’s a gamble for parents to know whether they’ve been able to securely pay for the requirements, especially with a lengthy back-and-forth process that may be prone to errors and mistakes.

What all this means is that schools are far too bogged down in slow, inefficient processes and money isn't getting to its intended sources as quickly as it should. It’s all ripe for true digitization, but schools may be skeptical.

Payment Digitization Roadblocks

At the bare minimum, a school has had a functioning website for years. At most, they have a regularly integrated student information system that tracks essential details like grades, enrollment, sports participation, individual and class attendance and more. With the digital world creeping into all facets of day-to-day education, it makes sense that payments should be part of that mainline educational experience. But if it’s such a no-brainer, then why are digital payment solutions not already the norm?

A big reason is that there may be hesitancy around payment technology due to the assumption that it’s too complex. School decision-makers don’t know what the best and most successful options are, and some administrators may be unsure where to begin when it comes to adopting technology. The feeling of being technologically overwhelmed tends to bump innovation down the priority list amidst other problems schools face each day.

It makes sense that what works for a tech-savvy school in New York City might not work for an elementary school in Arkansas, or the significant investment made by a school in the Chicago suburbs may be overwhelming to the local grade school in Vermont. Budgets may be limited from school to school, with only so many resources available to invest in upgrades. But exploring digital payments means understanding what technological setbacks are costing a school today versus the cost-saving improvements that will benefit that school down the line.

Solving Payment Pain Points : 4 Benefits for Schools

The solution is understanding a particular school’s needs and what options are available, and then committing to implementing a plan. Luckily, we're at a point in our digital age where that implementation is easier than it seems. Payment platforms can be friction-free and easily integrated into application programming interfaces (APIs) or hosted solutions, eliminating costly developments and ensuring that schools can start immediately accepting consolidated digital payments.

Still skeptical? Let’s take a look at some primary benefits from the school’s and parent’s POV.

1. Catering to Current Digital Behaviors

The world has changed and education simply needs to catch up with it. Today’s parents are likely doing everything online, from banking to getting their groceries delivered. Contrast that digital awareness with some school systems that are pay-by-check, and the glaring disparity is clear. Many parents are very digitally savvy, and digital adoption in schools should match where they are so that the user experience is on par with their expectations in the modern age.

2. Saving Time and Excess Costs

All schools are looking for efficiencies where they can save time and resources. Incorporating digital payments ensures the timely payment of fees, making the process easier for parents while also eliminating pains in tracking, collecting and cashing for teachers and administration.

3. Enabling Better Tracking

If schools were previously collecting payments through checks, pandemic-related shutdowns meant nobody was at the school to get them anymore. Digitally consolidated payment options ensure all parties know account destinations for transactions, as well as regular up-to-date reporting to leave a digital trail if payment reconciliation is ever called into question.

4. Boosting Security and Minimizing Theft

Integrating the right payment functionality keeps sensitive information encrypted behind the highest level of security, which is a compliance standard known as PCI level one. Systems remove all sensitive data on payments from the school, meaning payment information is protected and no compromising data is stored on systems, which is critical to stop hacking.

Schools are dealing with many problems each day, but failing to modernize payment processes through technology will create more operational problems in the long run. The opportunity to consolidate and streamline processes for digital payments will make things much easier for parents, the children and the schools themselves.

About the Author

Ralph Dangelmaier is the CEO of BlueSnap, which helps businesses accept global payments a better way. With more than 30 years of experience in the payments industry, Dangelmaier is at the forefront of ecommerce innovation, using his expert knowledge to grow public and private companies via innovative payment solutions.