Utilizing Payment Plans

6/30/2020 12:30 PM

If offering new payment plan options is part of your back-to-campus strategy this fall, TouchNet payment plans offer real-time transparency, customization, and flexibility. In this week’s summer replay, Denise Gelina from Columbia College describes how partnering with TouchNet benefits the university’s diverse student body and their needs, specifically those of active military students. Prefer to listen? Here's the podcast link to "Utilizing Payment Plans."

Columbia College has both a traditional and non-traditional program for students in more than 30 locations across the United States. Gelina estimates about 17,000 students in their non-traditional program, 37 percent of whom are in the military.

Enabling students to pay as they go

For traditional day students, Columbia College offers six or seven plans per semester and an additional plan for international students coming into the country for the first time. Non-traditional students attend 10 courses every eight weeks for up to six sessions a year.

Gelina explains that one of Columbia College’s major goals is keeping students out of debt. To do this, the school allows some students to pay in installments during the semester rather than in one large sum. Other students’ education is fully financed with financial aid, scholarships, and other benefits. TouchNet Payment Plans provide the flexibility to meet each student’s individual situation and supplement their academic education with real-world financial management experience.

Military tuition assistance

Many school students are current and former military members utilizing the GI Bill, Chapter 30, or Chapter 35 benefits and military tuition assistance. This means 37 percent of Columbia College’s student population requires specific financial planning support that must meet federal government requirements.

In 2019, new GI Bill regulations stipulated that higher education institutions allow 90 days at the start of the semester for students to receive their payments or benefits from the federal government. In an effort to meet those new requirements, Columbia College now meets those requirements by utilizing TouchNet to tailor their payment plans for this specific student segment. As a result, the school defers payments to meet federal regulations, and students attend class while they wait for assistance. Some payment plans require scheduled payments, but if federal funding comes in before a payment is due, the plan overrides corresponding future payments.

Educating students inside and outside the classroom

Gelina also explains that the college is stepping away from “batch enrollment” payments to help teach students financial responsibility. Now, students who do not pay in full at registration are given 24 hours to enroll in a payment plan that best fits their needs. Those who miss the deadline risk being deregistered from classes.

Once a year, Columbia College steps back to reevaluate student needs and struggles and discuss how the college can positively impact students’ lives. If needed, they revamp payment plan details, such as aligning due dates in the school's enrollment center to reduce confusion and stress.

Based on her institution's experience, Gelina offers tips to simplify payment plans, such as using eligibility codes and locking in recalculation rates to prevent sudden payment increases. By combining realistic rates with the flexibility available through TouchNet payment plans, schools can efficiently serve students’ financial needs.