Three big ways school payment solutions help parents and school administrators
Every school accepts some type of payment from students and parents. School fees vary from one district to another, elementary school to high school, private to public. But most institutions have a need to take payments for goods and services like hot lunch, after school care, yearbooks, club memberships, sporting events, and even student tuition.
Just as the use of cash and checks has decreased in the larger consumer economy in favor of credit cards, schools are seeing an increase in demand for plastic payments as well. People want to use credit cards in all areas of their lives—including school payments. And the schools managing those payments want an easier system for collecting, managing, and tracking those payments.
Implementing a credit card based school payments solution helps both parents/guardians and school administrators in three main ways.
Read on to learn more about how implementing credit card payments in schools is changing things for the better, one payment at a time.
Receiving credit and debit card payments at school is convenient
Setting up the ability to take credit card payments is one way that schools across America are making it easier and more efficient to collect necessary funds from students and their guardians.
Parents have a lot on their plates. Keeping up with the family schedule including school events, extracurricular activities, and sporting events is difficult enough. Worrying about their students’ daily lunch account balance isn’t always at the top of the list.
Some parents pay for hot lunch on a day by day basis, whereas other pay for a week or month of lunches up front. Either way, scraping coins together in a rush before the bus arrives or dashing off a higher value check isn’t exactly convenient for parents.
A school payment acceptance solution can relieve this burden on parents by allowing them to charge a lump sum to their credit card to cover lunch fees over a longer period of time without having to monitor the lunch account regularly.
With an online payment option, the conveniences that credit card payments provide to parents are even greater. They can add funds to their student’s account when it’s most convenient for them, from the comfort of home, or the office.
Parents could also automate the payment so it happens at the same time every month. Or for the less regular hot lunch eater, the parent could set up an alert that notifies them when the lunch balance reaches a certain low threshold. In this scenario, the parent will also have greater visibility into how often their child is purchasing hot lunch, and/or ala cart items.
Parents who pay for several lunches up front often don’t realize the lunch account has a zero balance until the child attempts to use it. Some districts have a negative balance allowance, or an emergency sack lunch policy for hungry students with no lunch money, but it’s not an ideal solution for the student, or the school.
Alternatively, parents may call the school to inquire about the student’s lunch balance. Fielding these calls can become an administrative burden for schools that don’t have an employee specifically dedicated to answering and returning these inquiries. Some districts leave it to the lunch staff, others, the accounting department or front office staff. But in reality, it’s a disruptive task that could be alleviated by allowing parents to check their student’s lunch account balances themselves online.
The convenience of credit card payments at schools is also evident in the speed of service that credit card acceptance can provide. Some schools that accept cash from kids in the lunch line on a daily basis have reported long cumbersome lines as a real problem, especially with the short amount of time allotted for lunch. In schools where students can simply provide their name or student ID number to the attendant to access their lunch account rather than handling cash or checks, the lunch line moves significantly faster.
Accepting credit cards speeds things up in every area where payment issues can impede efficiency. Think about admission to sporting events, checking out at the book fair, or the logistics of having and making change during fundraising activities. The convenience we experience in the wider world with regard to credit and debit card payments can apply to school commerce as well.
Taking card payments at school improves accounting accuracy
Accounting can be a logistical headache for school districts, particularly in large, multi-school districts and those with site-based management policies. When you have a number of different school administrators, all with their own policies and structures, and various technology systems in play, it can be difficult to implement a unified accounting solution.
Electronic payment solutions can be a big help here. A lot of integrated payment systems work with the top accounting programs, and various operational technologies in use in school systems to solve compatibility problems. So when a district has multiple schools using different accounting programs or database management systems, it won’t present an administrative problem.
With a unified payment system, administrators have access to a much more in depth look at finances across all schools. Reporting is also a huge benefit of implementing an online based payment system. Administrators can pull reports by date, by school, by student, etc., to help with financial accounting.
Accepting credit cards has a positive impact on the speed of account updates and payment reconciliation. Before implementing electronic payments, school accountants recount the hassles of their day-to-day operations in terms of dealing with bad checks, having to process stacks of checks, make trips to the banks, and have a large amount of cash on hand to make change and other minor headaches that add up in the long run. Promoting the use of credit and debit cards can make a significant reduction in these types of hassles.
Accepting credit card payments at school is more secure
As many parents know, sending your child to school with cash isn’t a completely anxiety free exercise. There is always a worry that the money won’t make it to where it’s intended. It can be lost in the shuffle of papers, stolen by other kids, given away in an innocent gesture of kindness, or just spent in other ways than intended.
When parents have the ability to load funds onto their students’ accounts, it eliminates that anxiety and relieves the burden on the student, the teacher, and the school at large to handle the cash.
Administrators have similar concerns about having a large amount of cash on hand in the school. Moving a significant portion of payments to credit cards helps reduce the potential for students and staff to skim cash at the school undetected. Handling a large amount of personal checks, can also present a security problem, as checks contain bank account numbers and addresses on them and need to be handled properly.
In a cash and check only environment, the amount of cash on hand and the need for security protocols to protect it are much greater. With a credit card acceptance system, there will automatically be less cash and checks to manage and secure.
Of course, there are security risks associated with accepting credit cards as well. But anti-fraud technology and encryption and tokenization software are highly effective at protecting sensitive cardholder data and preventing fraud. With many providers, those security technologies are built into the service so you don’t have to worry about it.
How to select the right payment processing solution for your school
There are many options when it comes to payments partners in education—both for K-12 and at the higher education level. It can be a tough decision to choose the right hardware and software, so be sure to consult with several payment processing providers for their recommendations.
Some things to keep in mind are whether you’ll accept credit card payments in-person, online or both; what kind of reporting you need; the security features the provider offers; solutions for recurring payments, and billing; compatibility with existing technology solutions; and whether you’ll have the flexibility to upgrade to new solutions when needed.
Accepting electronic payments for school lunches and other regular school expenses can help your school have a more regular revenue stream, streamline accounting, and keep parents happy with additional payment options. Contact Vantiv to discuss a wide variety of options and implement secure payments processing for your K-12 school, college, or university today.