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Digital payment options are no longer the future – they’re here and now. Colleges and universities that haven’t adapted their ecosystems to accommodate the preferences of younger generations are behind the times. 

Students (and staff and parents) expect to be able to make purchases across campus digitally. Students want to buy books, purchase meals and snacks, and buy tickets to sporting and other events using digital wallets and other digital payment means. Tuition is not exempt; students want modern payment solutions to pay for all education-related expenses. 

These financial preferences should not be ignored. According to PYMNTS, just 5% of millennials are using paper checks when it comes to education-related expenses. They would instead prefer to use mobile and other alternative payment methods (APMs). 

Vanderbilt University Bursar Chris Cook notes that more than half of bursar’s office transactions happen via electronic payments – and students’ preference for alternative payment options (i.e. Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Wallet et. al. ) is on the rise. 

But less than one-third (29%) of colleges and universities are considered advanced when it comes ot accepting APMs, according to a survey of 1,200 enterprises by ACI Worldwide and Ovum. 

Those considering their digital options must also take other factors into account. We walk through some of these below. 

Which Payment Options to Offer

Most colleges and universities that do offer APMs are sticking to one service. For example, the University of Alabama accepts Apple Pay, and the University of Illinois takes Venmo. Students looking to tap into more than one payment service across their campus are stuck with the option their university has chosen. 

The key here is to do your homework and evaluate which APM(s) make the most sense for your campus. 

How Much Payment Options Will Cost in Processing Fees

Accepting payments costs money. Universities are familiar with processing fees that debit and credit card issuers charge, but take note: mobile payment providers may charge processing fees, too. 

Some universities opt to pass on the processing costs to students and plan to do the same with APM processing fees. You may want to consider how expensive those fees are and if they are comparable to credit and debit card processing fees to avoid student sticker shock. 

How to Integrate

While the convenience factor on the front end plays a big role in their popularity, not all APMs are easy to integrate on the backend. Be sure you understand how APM technologies will integrate into existing infrastructure and systems. 

Each APM will have different requirements and may require specific technologies. It’s important to work with experts who understand the ins and outs of integration to save yourself from headaches down the road. What’s more, it’s important to take a unified approach to integration across your campus – or multiple campuses. This can streamline payment processing across many different departments and eliminate redundant systems. 

How to Keep it Secure

Fraud is an ever-looming risk and colleges must go the extra mile to keep transactions secure. When launching mobile payments, it can be a good idea to roll out new options in departments that process smaller transactions. 

In other words, test out mobile payments in areas like dining halls and campus stores before diving into big-ticket items like tuition. This allows students to get comfortable with new options while you ensure security is a priority.

How to Maximize Returns

Yes, mobile and digital payment options cater to student preferences, but they can also yield significant returns for colleges and universities. For one, they can be cheaper to process by reducing the resources needed. They can also support fundraising initiatives by offering more ways for students and alumni to give. 

In other words, offering choice benefits your school, too. 

For more information about the best path forward for introducing or expanding digital payments options, contact us for a free consultation today

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