Converting foreign currency online and sending money to someone on the other side of the world can now be as easy as buying a morning coffee with a wave of your watch or phone. Transactions like these have become simple and routine thanks to developments in financial technology (fintech) – and are being used by education agents to streamline what can be complex transactions among the students and universities they serve. “Fintech” refers to innovative digital technologies that aim to optimize financial services and banking. Their impact can be felt in all sectors, including the education sector, particularly in terms of the way payers expect to be able to pay; expectations that have a significant impact on the overall student experience.
Leading education agents are prioritizing investments in payments-related technologies to better serve students and universities, and optimize their own businesses in a competitive environment. But navigating it all can be difficult.
To stay on the pulse of innovation, here’s how some of the biggest fintech trends are affecting education agents, and what you need to know to stay ahead.
Trend 1: Payments are moving online
APAC, a big market for international student recruitment, is a leader in digital payments adoption and is on track to represent over 50% of global non-cash transactions by 2025, according to Capgemini’s World Payments Report. Other regions are also seeing significant payments innovation. Cross-border e-commerce and mobile payment transactions in Europe will grow 13% year over year. In the Middle East and Africa 95% of people are considering using emerging options such as wearables, biometrics, and wallets. And in LatAm, one of the fastest growing mobile markets globally where 70% of the population are underbanked, we are seeing digital payments play a big role in closing the region’s financial inclusion gap.
With the dramatic growth in awareness and use of digital payments, it’s no surprise that students and families expect convenient digital methods to pay for applications, tuition, and school expenses. According to PYMTNS.com, only 5% of millennials use paper checks to pay for education related expenses, instead preferring more digitally-focused alternatives.
For education agents and schools, adopting digital payments will help improve conversion at a crucial stage in the recruitment funnel, increasing the speed of the enrollment process whilst cutting associated costs, improving student satisfaction and the overall enrollment experience. In fact, 77% of students surveyed in our Pulse on Payments survey said that a simplified payment process would improve their higher education experience.
Digital payments also deliver important internal benefits to agents and schools by streamlining reconciliation processes, eliminating manual inefficiencies, increasing security, and providing greater visibility and control over payments.
Trend 2: Payments are becoming more flexible
Consumers expect flexible ways to pay, whether instalments, digital wallets or other options, and fintechs are working fast to deliver them. But it’s not only consumer businesses that are experiencing the demands for payment flexibility. In the education sector, payment plans are gaining popularity as a way to make tuition expenses more affordable.
In a recent survey of finance professionals at U.S. education institutions conducted by PYMNTS.com, more than 80% of university bursars said flexible payment plans tailored to individual students can be attractive alternatives to traditional payments. These offerings can be automated based on the student’s financial background and payment history. As a result, schools are limiting potential dropouts due to financial difficulties and reducing collection costs.
Students around the globe feel the same - 70% of students say that having a payment plan would make their education more affordable. To see how this works in practice, we only need to look to Brazil, where the culture of instalment payments is second nature, and students are more than comfortable to pre-pay their tuition fees via instalments over a number of months, rather than making one large lump sum payment.
Trend 3: Cross-border payments are increasing
Demand for international education continues to surge, with 73% of agents reporting in a recent ICEF survey it is higher than it was in 2021.
Whilst smaller agents may operate in a single country, many help schools attract students from multiple countries each with different currencies, payment preferences and cross border payment regulations to be managed. This substantially increases the complexity for institutions who want to offer a seamless payment experience to each payer. Cross-border payments are further complicated by the usually high and not so transparent fees applied to both payers and institutions for some payment methods.
As technology evolves, students expect to make cross-border payments with ease, while also having a personalized experience; in their language and in their local currency - regardless of where they are making those payments. Agents benefit from taking advantage of a payment platform that provides the ability to initiate and track tuition fee payments, offers a choice of payment methods and currencies, whilst also being cost-effective. Added benefits, for both agents and institutions, include being able to automate reconciliation processes as well as centralizing the storage of all relevant data.
Trend 4: Payments are becoming embedded in the digital customer experience
As payments go digital, the payment experience needs to become part of the overall value proposition organizations offer up front, or they risk alienating a loyal customer base. Both business and consumer customers now expect a convenient, digital payment option no matter what they are buying. It’s the logical result of an ongoing quest to make things better, faster and cheaper by minimizing friction at the point of sale, enhancing engagement, and driving operational efficiencies. Some call it embedded finance and payments, others call it payment services.
The takeaway for agents here is that a seamless payment experience is linked to a good client experience. Increasingly, agents want to recommend payment methods that reduce fees, speed settlement, and make it easier for all parties - agents, students and schools - to track payment status. Fintech offers a way to do just this.
Education agents must prioritize payment innovation
At this stage, there is a wide gap between what students and families expect from a payment experience, what agents are able to provide and what institutions are willing to prioritize. Digital payments, frictionless transaction experiences, convenient local payment options, and speed of processing are some of the key areas of opportunity for agents. Those that take advantage of these opportunities to help students and payers navigate the payment experience with secure digital options will definitely have an edge over the competition.
Want to learn more?
Check out the following resources to see why Flywire is the Trusted Choice of millions of students and thousands of education institutions and agents around the world:
- Watch our Fintech for International Education presentation
- Check out our Pulse on Payments interactive report
- Discover how our Flywire simplifies the payment process
- Discover how Payment Plans provide flexible self-service payment options that make education costs more manageable
- Find out how our Agent Platform optimizes the payment process to save time and resources
- Explore our interactive maps to see how students and institutions experience the difference with Flywire