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5 things to look for in simplifying school payments

Allowing for electronic payments through one platform eases burden for administrators and parents
Terry Roberts,  President,  Heartland School Solutions
Terry Roberts, President, Heartland School Solutions

The amount and variety of payments that come into a district can be overwhelming to those who manage school funds. Fees are collected for different purposes and are routed to different places, and many districts still accept only cash or check as payment. There can be a large administrative burden in keeping these varied funds organized. People and resources must be dedicated to entering fees, exporting reports, depositing checks in different accounts, and fixing errors.

As the consumer world grows increasingly cashless, parents expect to be able to use a credit or debit card to pay school fees, which can ultimately benefit districts. Schools that accept electronic payments see increased on-time payments from parents, as well as reduced risk from the elimination of cash handling. There are single-solution platforms that alleviate time spent managing funds while improving customer service to parents. When evaluating such platforms, administrators should look for a solution that is designed specifically for school districts, rather than attempt to implement a program used in the commercial market. These solution providers not only understand schools’ unique needs, but also how to support those needs. Other critical capabilities include:

1. A robust meal payments portal
School meals represent a large portion of the payments that any district collects. It is critical that a payment solution integrate with pre-existing cafeteria point of sale software. A full integration of the two systems allows for real-time information on student balances, quick daily reconciliation and audit-friendly reports. Accepting electronic payments also speeds up serving lines, which means students have more time to eat.

2. Student invoicing capabilities
Schools regularly need to collect student-specific payments for tuition, transportation, overdue library books or technology fees. Platforms should automatically send just-in-time invoices to parents when these fees are due, with a direct link for immediate payment.

3. Customizable e-commerce school store
A customizable online storefront provides parents with a simple interface where they can easily purchase school items for their students. Online school stores provide administrators with easier fund management, especially where different items and fees are associated with different bank accounts. Reports should be easily exported for simple reconciliation.

4. In-person payments
School campuses are busy places, and having that in-person option at the front office or the big game can be the easiest way to take a payment. A solution that offers a mobile point of sale function allows parents to pay in the moment, anywhere on a school campus, with cash, check or card.

5. Parent mobile apps
Parents are on the go, and schools can now move with them. A mobile app that parents access from their smartphone in order to submit payment via e-checks, debit or credit cards is another essential function. Apps that are available for both Android and iOS devices increase maximum adoption potential. The key to identifying the right all-in-one solution is choosing one that is truly all-in-one. Both parents and administrators should see clear benefits in terms of convenience and management. MySchoolBucks gives the financial visibility and control necessary to manage all payments in an increasingly cashless world.

This piece was produced by District Administration for Heartland Payment Systems. For more information, visit http://info.heartlandschoolsolutions.com/da