International student payment options: Why one size fits none

International students contribute significantly to the academic and financial robustness of the higher education institutions they attend. In the United States, for instance, such students account for 5.5% of total higher education enrollments and more than 10% at doctorate-granting institutions. With only one in six receiving institutional aid compared with 44% of all first-time, full-time degree-seeking undergraduates whose average award exceeds $10,000, international students contribute disproportionately to net tuition revenue. No wonder colleges and universities are eager to lure them to their campuses. (source)

So what are international students looking for? A welcoming environment, for starters.

And while many aspects of your school can contribute to such an environment, one that shouldn’t be overlooked is the experience students have when paying tuition.

The fact is, paying tuition fees is a significant part of the student journey. If your school wants to attract more international students, you need to ensure a smooth digital payment process for every student in what is one of life’s most important moments. Amid COVID-19 uncertainties, digital payment options provide seamless convenience for students taking classes online away from campus.

Why one size fits none

Zero in on payment preferences by country

Flywire recently commissioned independent research to understand what international students from China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Vietnam expect from their tuition payment experience. While some expectations and concerns were consistent across the board, a deeper dive into the research reveals that students from different countries have varying preferences on how they’d like to pay their education bills:

  • China: the leading tuition payment requirement for Chinese students, for example, is real-time payment tracking and native language support. They also want the ability to pay their fees digitally using preferred payment methods. Their biggest concern? Hidden payment fees.
  • India: students from India share their Chinese peers’ concern about hidden payment fees. Their leading requirement, however, is having the ability to pay in their home currency. Native language support is also important for seven out of ten Indian students.
  • Indonesia: payment security and hidden payment fees are the biggest worries of Indonesian students. And more than half of them are less likely to recommend a school should their payment experience be unsatisfactory.
  • Nigeria: Nigerian students want to be able to pay digitally using their preferred payment method. Real-time visibility and native language support are also important to them. Meanwhile 45% said they were less likely to recommend a university after having a poor payment experience.
  • Vietnam: the leading expectation of Vietnamese students is to have the ability to make digital payments via a university’s website. When they make such payments, students want to use their preferred payment method – bank transfer or credit card. They also expect to have real-time visibility over their payments.

Review the survey’s complete findings

Bottom line: one size fits none when it comes to the payment preferences of international students. If your school wants to attract applicants from other countries, you need to understand that you cannot cater to their needs in broad-brush strokes. Based on insights from the survey, we recommend using regional preferences in your key markets to influence your payment architecture and overall student journey design.

Flywire has been solving complex payment problems for students and education institutions since 2011. Today, we continue to remove boundaries by connecting millions of students with more than 2,000 institutions to improve the payment experience worldwide.

Take an interactive look at our payment study to find out more about the payment expectations of international students from China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Vietnam.