Protecting the Student Account

7/28/2020 2:00 PM

In this Summer Replay post, Meghan Carr, director of the cashier’s office at the University of Missouri, explains how the university fought poor retention caused by inconsistent and delayed payment of student fees by implementing TouchNet Marketplace, a separate real-time payment platform. She highlights the process of implementing Marketplace, the system's many convenient functionalities, and its short- and long-term benefits. Prefer to listen? Here's the podcast link to "Protecting the Student Account."

Separate non-academic charges

When Carr joined the University of Missouri in 2015, she quickly learned that student accounts were being charged with more than 150 non-traditional fees at inconsistent times and amounts. This was the result of students charging snacks, apparel, events, department fees, and other items to their student account. Fees weren’t showing up until weeks — or sometimes months — later. The billing delays caused students great financial stress and led to account holds, which prohibited them from enrolling in additional classes or receiving transcripts. As more students experienced delayed charges, their cumulative effect had a negative impact on retention.

Keep campus commerce flowing

To combat this problem, Carr and her team needed a solution that allowed shops and departments to continue charging students, didn’t require cash, and kept charges separate from students’ academic accounts. Her goal was to keep student accounts focused on solely academic-related charges, such as room and board, parking, etc. The school found its solution in TouchNet Marketplace, a separate payment platform. Marketplace allows each department or shop to have its own storefront and take payment in real time. Through Marketplace’s TouchNet Ready functionality, departments are able to keep the original front-end software that best fits their needs and connect directly to Marketplace without switching software.

As Carr rolled out Marketplace at the flagship campus, she realized the university's other campuses needed a similar solution. In response, she implemented a shared services model across the campuses that enables each location to access Marketplace. Currently, more than 50 storefronts and departments have processed more than $1.6 million in transactions utilizing Marketplace. A full-time position was created to manage and support the expansion initiative, and people within each department are also trained to manage the platform.

Teach students money management

Implementing Marketplace has helped the university improve student retention as well as create an opportunity to teach students how to appropriately manage their finances. Carr wants students to learn to spend their money mindfully and create responsible spending habits that set them up for success after college. She has seen a decrease in customer service calls related to account holds and a decrease in account holds overall.

Long term, the University of Missouri plans to make TouchNet the primary payment gateway for ecommerce operations across the university’s campuses. Carr also hopes to create a better SAQ and PCI compliance process through utilizing Marketplace. Currently, the university has 20 payment gateways that they plan to fully transition to TouchNet Marketplace over time.