How to best support student payment needs with staffing shortfalls

Jim Garrant
Jim Garrant
Director of Client Advocacy & Associations - Education

While international education enrollment at US institutions is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels (according to 2021/22 figures) staffing, on the other hand, is not. Across the sector 50,000 workers at 200 institutions were laid off during the pandemic and most are not being replaced. All as institutions use the savings to plug their budget shortfall which is a staggering total of $46 billion. This is severely impacting finance operations as bursars are tasked with maintaining enrollment and cash flow, as well as providing students with a great experience. Not only that, but these staffing shortfalls are bumping into big shifts in how students can and want to make tuition payments.

First, the needs of international students are changing. Historically, international students typically had the money to pay their education fees in full. However, since the pandemic, they are increasingly demanding more flexible payment options and relief from the stress brought by navigating the newfound financial complexities and challenges of paying their tuition and education expenses on time. Their knowledge of local payment systems might be a barrier, so too might language.

How do we know this? Flywire conducted an independent study of 1,929 higher education students and found that 88% are looking for help to afford their education payments; they want simpler payment plans and flexible payment options. Different regions need different support. In some cases, international students are even more likely to want a payment plan than domestic students.

There has also been a growing trend of students, both domestic and international, falling behind in their tuition fee payments, which puts them at risk of being dropped for registration due to their inability to pay. This is why early intervention is crucial for student retention. Too often this is beyond the capabilities of resource-drained staff. These teams often have no choice but to prioritize current paying students, and outsource collections for both students who are past due and ex-students who still owe money. This not only costs the institution a significant amount and impacts cash flow, but also affects the student’s experience such that they may not re-enroll when they are through their period of hardship.

How can education institutions support a modern student lifecycle with limited resources? Here are three key tips:

  • Offer flexible, self-service payment plans to keep students enrolled and improve internal efficiencies
  • Automate as many processes and communications as possible to proactively ensure consistent and effort-free collections
  • Use data to identify students who are at risk of falling into arrears early and prevent them from entering the debt collection process

Want to learn more?

  • Watch our webinar from SIGConnect 2023 with University of Northern Colorado to find out how they support the modern student lifecycle whilst simultaneously creating operational efficiencies
  • Read about why Flywire is the Trusted Choice of millions of students and thousands of education institutions and agents around the world
  • Discover how payment plans provide flexible self-service payment options that make education costs more manageable
  • See how you can automate the past-due receivables process to proactively increase collections and keep more students enrolled
  • Find out how 529 disbursements speed payment reconciliation by eliminating paper checks to save time and resources