The Smart Receivables Playbook: Rethinking Tuition Payments In A Time Of Transformation, a PYMNTS and Flywire collaboration, opens with a fact that’s as momentous as it seems: “A massive shift to digital education technologies and platforms has occurred over the past year, with online and asynchronous learning in many ways supplanting — not just supplementing — the traditional classroom and campus experiences.”
Based partly on a companion study of top executives in education, finance, healthcare and technology, new data shows how education is being tested when it comes to payments.
While enrollment held and even increased for private four-year colleges and graduate schools (a nearly 5 percent increase in enrollment for the latter), the Playbook notes that “the pandemic has caused considerable financial strain at community colleges and two-year schools and dramatically curtailed international student enrollment amid pandemic-based border restrictions.” Enrollment among college-age students dropped more than 13 percent at community colleges, while foreign enrollments fell about 18 percent in 2020 versus 2019.
Tuition payment friction and old-school enrollment and registration aren’t helping pandemic-era pressures, as the Playbook states that “nearly half of two-year college and community college leaders (48 percent) view the paperwork associated with student loan programs as a major pain point, as do 36 percent of those at four-year colleges and universities. A quarter of community and two-year colleges also cite regulatory requirements for government payments as a pain point, as do 19 percent of four-year colleges and universities.”
Cross-border payments friction is putting downward pressure on foreign students who are enrolling and making tuition payments, compounding problems for institutions that have in many cases come to rely heavily on students from other countries choosing to be educated in the U.S.
Per the Playbook, “Approximately 80 percent of finance leaders at two- and four-year institutions say it is difficult to receive payments from foreign student loan programs, and half say the same about payments from foreign governments.” Roughly one-third more said that “receiving payments directly from students and families is also challenging.”
The new research suggests that administrators are going back to school to learn about improving payments and related issues. “Our data further shows that most finance officials in the education sector are less than satisfied with their payment operations, even with the considerable sums being spent in this area: 72 percent of them consider their payments operations only somewhat or slightly effective,” the Playbook states.