The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) serves more than 32,000 undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate students. Among its many accolades, the school was ranked the #1 public university in the Northeast by The Wall Street Journal in 2020.
Like any large institution, Pitt has its share of student accounts that become delinquent due to failed payment, shortfall in aid, or students dropping out with outstanding balances. In fact, each year, Pitt’s Student Financial Services (SFS) team can predict exactly how many student accounts will unfortunately be sent to collections. Despite attempts to reduce collection numbers by testing new communication strategies and tweaking the timing on pre-collection actions, nothing seemed to work. With thousands of new students enrolling each term, just six collectors on staff, and an antiquated payment platform to assist with past-due accounts, the collections outcome was immovable. With the SFS department facing reduced headcount due to budget constraints and looming retirements, Pitt needed to find a way to help keep students enrolled and protect their brand by reducing the number of students going into collections.
Additionally, Pitt’s existing payment platform for billing, domestic payments, and payment plans had become outdated and was not a mobile-friendly user experience. This resulted in an overwhelming number of support calls to the SFS team and significant time spent updating and maintaining the information presented on the user interface. To provide a better staff and student experience, Pitt began looking for a new payment partner to better meet their needs.
Already successfully using Flywire for the secure processing of international education payments for several years, Pitt turned to Flywire for domestic collections advice before deciding to implement A/R Collect. With A/R Collect, Pitt is now able to proactively collect on more accounts internally, reduce collection agency placements, and keep more students enrolled by automating the past-due receivables process to increase productivity and cash flow. Using Flywire’s collector timeline feature, the Pitt team is able to visually see a schedule of collection activities and quickly take action on work items. The actions worklist is then automatically pushed to staff collectors for sorting and prioritizing by date, action type and more. Each timeline can easily be organized and customized to display actions targeted for student-specific circumstances, and collectors are able to add notes for any timeline changes or completed tasks to increase visibility among the SFS team.
Following success with A/R Collect, Pitt partnered closely with Flywire to further improve the overall payment experience and drive additional efficiency by automating the payment process and consolidating student financial account details in one place, making the information more accessible for students and families. This resulted in Pitt’s expanded use of Flywire’s Comprehensive Receivables Solution (CRS) suite of offerings to include Domestic Payments, Payment Plans, Billing, and Refunds, in addition to A/R Collect and International Payments. With Flywire’s full CRS suite implemented, the SFS team is now able to streamline the entire billing and payment process, seamlessly unifying the current and past-due account lifecycle.
Pitt also utilizes Flywire’s automated communication hub, which is included as part of CRS, to optimize the payment and collections process. This hub enables Pitt to deliver automated, university-branded billing and payment messages via email and text messages to increase collections and payment plan enrollment. Communication messaging and cadence can be customized by user type to drive the desired action.
Pitt’s payment plans are flexible and can be set up to meet specific institution and student enrollment needs. For example, budget-to-actual payment plans allow Pitt to open plan enrollment early, enabling students to begin paying sooner in smaller, more affordable installments. Students in collections also have the flexibility to choose their autopay date and payment options based on either a monthly budget amount or a fixed number of installments. Payment plans automatically rebalance when student account balances change. This helps to ensure all balances are paid-in-full by the final installment.
Visibility drives action. By integrating directly with Pitt’s PeopleSoft instance in real time, Pitt is able to leverage PeopleSoft functionality to make financial hold and to-do lists visible to students and authorized users so students can resolve outstanding issues more independently and efficiently.
Flywire’s CRS also helps staff manage payment plan default by actively engaging students with automated communications when they miss or default on an installment. It also provides reporting on students the system anticipates will default, enabling staff to proactively reach out and adjust plans to better meet specific financial needs.
The benefits to Pitt staff and students are significant. After the full CRS suite implementation, SFS call volumes immediately dropped 30% as students and families were able to find the information they needed to take action on their student account on any desktop or mobile device. In addition, using the automated communication hub to engage students with a standardized approach sooner in the process continually reduces the number of accounts sent to collections. This is key to improving cash flow and keeping students enrolled, a primary goal for the University.
Additionally, Flywire’s automated payment plan posting to PeopleSoft eliminates manual processing to help Pitt’s staff work more efficiently to save time and resources. By offering self-service payment plan options to students and their families, A/R Collect helps reduce inbound call and email volumes related to past-due accounts by 40%. Fewer accounts in collections also enable staff to focus on priority accounts that need personalized assistance.
We are delighted with our Flywire implementation and have seen a remarkable decrease in student and parent contact with our office as a result. Our service staff now has more time to spend assisting families who really need our help!