In this final Summer Replay post, Heather speaks with Bryan Dickson, the director of student financial services and educational programs for the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). They review the published results of both the NACUBO student financial services benchmarking study (SFSBM) and the policies and procedures study (SFSPP). Prefer to listen? Here's the podcast link to "NACUBO Report Update."
NACUBO’s annual SFSBM study looks at key ratios against which universities can measure themselves and track and study student finance trends. The SFSPP study, published every three years, focuses on financial practices at various campuses.
Together the studies offer insights into these categories:
- The SFSBM study revealed the number of full-time, permanent staff in financial services departments reflected a five-year average of 10.2 staff members.
- The study also found the number of full-time equivalent students (FTE) on campus affected overall student-to-staff ratios. Schools with fewer than 4000 students averaged 831 students to one staff member. At larger schools the ratio decreased to 494:1.
- The SFSPP study reflected the growing prevalence of online payments, with 94 percent of universities offering students online payment options.
- Similarly, the SFSBM study showed the percentage of electronic payments made to schools, which surpassed paper checks in 2015, continues to grow. Paper checks, which still account for 25.5 percent of payments, are predicted to decrease even further in the next five years.
- This first-time category showed 23 percent of universities offer tuition insurance students can opt into, while only seven percent offered opt-out, primarily outsourced plans. COVID-19 is expected to have a drastic impact on these statistics in 2020.
Income Share Agreements
- A new concept to the student financial services, investors make income share agreement contracts with students to fund their schooling in exchange for a percentage of future earnings over a specified time period. The SFSPP study found that only three percent of universities surveyed are offering this payment method, nine percent are considering using it in the future.
Tuition Payment Plans
- Payment plans’ popularity shows no sign of abating, with 98 percent of universities offering them. Within that group, 44 percent are outsourcing plans to industry partners and 18 percent use hybrid outsourced/in-house methods.
Outstanding Student Accounts
- To calculate overdue account ratios, schools look at the cumulative number of students with unpaid balances at the end of the fiscal year compared to the unduplicated student headcount for the academic year. The latest SFSBM revealed 34.2 percent of students had overdue balances, compared to 30.8 five years earlier. Numerous factors contribute to these percentages, including accumulating late fees, capped late fees, and financial literacy programs, which 56 percent of schools now offer and an additional 19 percent plan to implement.
- The SFSPP notes that in 86 percent of cases, responsibility for Return to Title IV (RtoT4) funds falls to financial aid offices, while 11 percent of schools indicate their business office is responsible.
- Student-veteran enrollment, which is increasingly popular, is managed two different ways. Single certification enrollment requires fees and tuition to be submitted to Veteran’s Affairs at the start of each term. Dual certification pays housing allowances immediately but delays fee and tuition payment until after add/drop periods. The latter requires more work but decreases debt due to more accurate payments. The SFSPP found that 42.5 percent of universities surveyed said the registrar’s office is responsible for student-veteran enrollment certification.