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Report: The Late Tuition Payment Epidemic

July 30, 2019

Over the past three decades, the cost of college tuition has increased significantly. According to the College Board, the cost of a four-year degree at a public higher education institution has more than tripled, while the cost of attending a private, nonprofit college or university has doubled within that timeframe.

As the price of higher education has gone up, it has also become more challenging for students and the family members who support them to make tuition payments on time. Even with full-time jobs, it’s very common for students to fall behind. In fact, according to new PYMNTS research, 63.1 percent of students who are currently late on their payments work a full-time job and 57.4 percent are not currently late but have been in the past.

In the Tuition Payments Study, PYMNTS collaborated with Flywire to outline the frictions that students and supporters often encounter when making tuition payments. The study, based on input from 1,983 consumers, includes over 270 data points highlighting the challenges students and supporters face when making tuition payments, the fallout from late payments and how payment plans could provide a pathway to stability for both students and financial supporters.

Falling behind on payments can take a heavy toll, especially on students. Among students currently late on payments, 71.9 percent said they worry about their ability to make payments on time. Students also worry that missed or late payments could throw their academic plans off track, impacting their grades or even resulting in expulsion from school.

Given the potential consequences of missing a payment, it’s somewhat unsurprising that both groups demonstrated strong interest in tuition payment plans. These solutions, many of which offer mobile-friendly interfaces, can provide automatic payments, flexible plan options and payment tracking. Interest in such solutions was especially high among students, 45.9 percent of whom said they were “very” or “extremely” interested in such services. Supporters were also interested, albeit to a lesser degree. PYMNTS found 34.3 percent of supporters were “very” or “extremely” interested in tuition payment solutions.

Among the findings outlined in the report:

  • 50.5%: Share of supporters who rely on employment income to pay for tuition
  • 31.7%: Share of students who work part-time who say it is “somewhat” or “very” hard to pay tuition
  • 54.2%: Share of students who are currently late on payments who find it “somewhat” or “very” easy to pay for tuition
  • 45.9%: Share of students who are “very” or “extremely” interested in tuition payment solutions, compared to 34.3 percent of supporters who said the same

The study also includes a data-rich Deep Dive that focuses on how some students must work to balance full- or part-time jobs as they pursue their academic goals and how tuition payment solutions could alleviate some common payment pain points for these groups.

To read more on how tuition payment solutions could alleviate common payment stresses, download the study.

About the Study

The Tuition Payments Study, a collaboration between PYMNTS and Flywire, examines the challenges both students and supporters face when making higher education tuition payments. The study is based on input from 1,983 consumers who identified as either only students, only supporters or as students who supported other students.

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