Faster and Simplified: The Next Generation of Refunds

5/20/2020 1:00:00 AM

Expect the unexpected. This spring’s pivot to remote learning and work reminded everyone how quickly day-to-day norms can be upended, especially when it comes to refunds and disbursements. If processing refunds or disbursing CARES Act funds left you wondering if there’s a better way to get money to students, here’s a quick update of your options:

The traditional twosome — paper checks and ACH

For schools that still rely exclusively on these methods, the ratio is roughly 40 percent checks to 60 percent ACH (also known as direct deposit). That split makes sense when you consider checks have to be printed, mailed, received, and deposited, while ACH costs less to process and requires a fraction of the time to get in students’ hands.

Still, there are drawbacks to ACH, such as students confusing debit card and checking account numbers and having trouble locating routing numbers. In addition, while ACH is faster than checks, Original Credit Transfer (OCT) apps such as Venmo and Facebook Messenger have conditioned students to expect immediate availability of funds. TouchNet’s option is currently under review and should be available soon.

New options deliver security and speed

Not only do OCT apps put cash in students’ hands faster than traditional methods, they’re also safer thanks to the tight security provided by encryption and tokenization.

Digital checks are another relatively new option which, unlike traditional checks, don’t have to be printed or mailed yet still provide a built-in paper trail thanks to the email that delivers them. With TouchNet, schools can make digital checks the default refund option, which is better for students. They can access funds much more quickly by instantly depositing the legal representation of the check via their mobile banking app.

Don’t overlook tools that keep transactions safe

It’s easy to get caught up in comparing refund delivery methods, but for some schools this spring fraud prevention took precedence over refund disbursement. The Federal Trade Commission reports a jump in scams tied to COVID-19, with more than 18,000 malicious phishing, ransomware, and fraudulent authorization attempts, some of which targeted higher ed.

Here at TouchNet, we advise schools to use all of the tools already available to them, such as two-step verification, red flag alerts, and red flag notifications. We’re also introducing new security tools, including communication options and refund holds when no student profile exists, to help ensure refunds get to the right student, regardless of the school’s chosen delivery method.

Unexpected refunds? TouchNet can help.

Recently, when some schools found themselves responsible for distributing CARES Act funds to students financially affected by campus closures, TouchNet stepped in to assist. By creating separate refund accounts or new refund detail codes — whatever worked best for the school — we helped those institutions keep CARES Act funds separate from traditional Title IV refunds.

Whether you need a new refund solution or you’re ready to automate certain tasks to free up staff to help students, TouchNet can help make refunds and financial aid disbursement easier, more reliable, and above all, safe.