Perspectives on higher education payments from students in China

Higher ed students in China look for convenience, simplicity and security when it comes to paying tuition and fees

Students in China look to their institutions for recommendations on how to pay their tuition, and have a strong desire to shift from using cash to digital wallets like Alipay and local payment methods like UnionPay, according to recent research from Flywire.

Easing payment is critical when considering that students from China tend to study abroad at a higher rate than students from any other country in the survey. This is according to research that Flywire commissioned to explore the attitudes and experience of more than 1,800 students from nine different countries around the world in regard to pursuing and paying for their higher education. It also found that when it comes to paying for their education, students in China – studying at home and abroad – find there to be a lack of convenient payment options and struggle with unclear processes. They want the process to be simple, convenient and secure.

Students in China use school-recommended payment methods for tuition and China-specific methods are preferred.

  • The top 2 drivers for choosing the payment method they did were:

    1. The school suggested it (46%)

    2. It was the most secure (45%)

  • Cash (23%) is the most common payment method for education, followed by Bank transfer/eCheck from a bank (18%), UnionPay (17%) and Alipay (16%). UnionPay and AliPay are largely unique to students in China.
  • But how they’re currently paying is not how they’d prefer to pay. Students want to use AliPay (42%), followed by UnionPay (13%) and bank transfer/eCheck from bank (13%).

Students in China seek a simplified payment process with convenient payment options.

  • 94% think that having access to a simplified payment process will improve their higher education experience. That is up from 72% in our last survey.
  • Unlike students in every other country, the primary cause of payment stress was not financial difficulties. Instead, it is a lack of convenient payment options (37%) or unclear payment processes from their education institutions (34%).
  • Students in China want different payment options, but they say they need to be limited in number. They say having too many payment provider options can make them want to go through their bank and/or pay through a bank transfer.
  • Students in China would also like to pay for other student fees, expenses and activities through the same payment provider. This preference is substantially higher than any other country.

Education agents are trusted advisors, and provide support with payments.

  • 89% of students said agents make it easier to decide where to study and 45% said they made the payment process easier.
  • 33% used an education agent during their application process. That’s comparable to students in India and Peru (32%).
Chinese College Students

For more on the payment preferences and solutions for higher education institutions and students: