Urgent changes have been needed inside institutions themselves in the past 18 months, to keep up with remote availability and a digital community expecting direct interaction.
With many institutions operating on legacy computer systems — built on the premise that students and administrators were present on campus — advances in payments capabilities have not often been a priority in the education industry.
That changed dramatically in 2020 as both local and international students were navigating classes and tuition payments remotely.
“These days, universities need automation in order to survive,” says Sharon Butler, Executive Vice President of Education at Flywire. “There hadn’t been a lot of innovation that went into education. So, when COVID-19 hit, they suddenly discovered they needed to hurry and get some technology out there.”
The way students prefer to make payments — from payment timing to transaction methods — can differ greatly among countries of origin depending on families and local culture.
“The rupture in the educational process has meant finding new ways to manage services, plan budgets, complete payments, reconfigure tuition plans and adjust for shifts in revenue,” observes Ellie Smith, Global Head of Digital Acceptance at Discover® Global Network.
The management of international students was an area of particular concern. The inclusion of students from various backgrounds and cultures has long been a key element of diversity sought by institutions to broaden the on-campus educational experience.
For many universities, international students also provide a key source of revenue. Indeed, 87% of academic institutions said international students were “important” or “very important” to their financial health, according to a survey conducted by Flywire.
While a majority of international students were most concerned about obtaining a visa for their studies, the question of the affordability of tuition and fees was even more top-of-mind for 29% of students, indicated the same survey.
Faced with this level of concern, universities have sought to offer flexible payment options, including pausing fees and offering refunds, with 88% of institutions saying this flexibility for international students was either “important” or “very important”.
To address these concerns and streamline the process, schools have increasingly looked to engage with families and respond to their needs.
By deploying automated software that integrates back-office systems with student information, universities have increasingly been able to deliver real-time communication if, for example, student payments fall behind. In this way, schools can actively work with families upfront to discuss options going forward.
Each of these challenges was unexpected in its arrival and proceeded to challenge higher education in unique ways.
With current trends in payments toward digital commerce and online transactions occurring worldwide —compounded periodically by unforeseen events — the need for payment agility will only increase.
Download Flywire’s “Passport to Higher Education: A Global Payments Study” to 21 major trends and students’ attitudes regarding global education.
Join us for our next Virtual Roadshow to find out how UK institutions like Solent University and University of West London are meeting student demand for more flexible payment options.