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Digital transactions have been growing in popularity within higher education. As a result, many schools and universities are investing in modern digital payment platforms that enable digital transactions for everything from tuition billing to meal plans. The increase in virtual learning and online instruction in the wake of the pandemic has exacerbated this trend. 

Even as classrooms return to “normal”, many schools have overhauled many administrative processes to be digital. Schools continue to transition departments, teaching, and payments to digital channels. But it’s also critical to ensure that the chosen platforms can handle a wide variety of use cases while remaining secure. 

Behind the Need for Digital Transactions in Higher Ed

Remote learning was one driver for digital transactions. But the reality is that many students have grown accustomed to paying online for a variety of things – from clothing to books and more. Universities would do well to pay attention to these preferences. 

Flexibility is highly valued among younger generations, and this can be seen in the higher enrollment rates in online-focused colleges. While many of these colleges cater to working adults and have historically served an older demographic, young Gen Z’ers are the fastest-growing demographic. According to Education Drive, students between the ages of 18 and 22 made up 8.4% of students who began these types of programs in February of 2020 – an increase of 5.1% from January 2018. 

Even students who choose to continue their education at universities focused on in-person learning prefer the flexibility that enables them to pay how they want, namely through digital means. Enabling digital transactions across the board – from tuition to meals to books – is imperative in 2022. 

Schools must take a page from the books of Amazon and Uber to facilitate a modern, frictionless payment experience. Students (and parents) are leaving paper checks behind in favor of ACH and digital wallets. 

Considerations for Digital Payments

Before making a move to digital payment platforms – or expanding capabilities – colleges and universities must do their due diligence. One of the biggest factors inhibiting many from changing providers is compatibility with other systems and software programs. 

When evaluating different providers, it’s critical to look at how easily new systems can be integrated into other platforms. Many modern services can be seamlessly embedded via APIs, eliminating or reducing the need for a complete overhaul. 

Another consideration is how many payment types, currencies, and digital wallets a platform can enable. This is especially critical for institutions that serve a global student base and are accepting tuition and other payments from multiple countries in multiple currencies. 

Addressing Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities

While enabling digital payments may seem like a no-brainer, it is not without risk. As digital payments experience rapid adoption and growth across industries, new cyber security vulnerabilities are emerging, too. 

Colleges and universities must ensure that new solutions and providers are secure and compliant, but also look at legacy systems to safeguard data against modern, highly-sophisticated bad actors. 

According to a report released by the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center, 2020 was a “record-breaking” year for cyber attacks against public schools in the U.S. Schools continue to battle both ransomware and malware attacks at staggering numbers, pointing to an increased need for safe, secure digital payment tools. Platforms should include comprehensive risk management and be fully compliant with federal regulations. 

If you’re ready to take the next step to enable or improve digital transactions, contact us today for a free consultation. 

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