Nearly half of college students and their families choose paper checks for refunds and other payments, which costs more and takes longer for institutions to process as opposed to electronic methods. The number of check disbursements continues to rise as additional students request refunds and work to manage their finances as a result of COVID-19.
The pandemic further complicates check payments for colleges and universities. Business offices struggle with printing checks when working remotely and increasingly don’t know where to disburse checks as more students are displaced or are not living at their primary residence.
Here are six ways schools can increase the number of students who opt for electronic transactions via TouchNet’s eRefunds, a component of the Bill+Payment solution suite that helps colleges and universities automate, manage, and secure campuswide payments:
1. Switch the default setting from paper to digital checks
When students don’t create a direct deposit profile, most schools set paper checks as their default refund method. Instead, schools can automatically send students a digital check to their school-issued email address with an alert prompting them to choose their preferred payment method for future transactions.
As an alternative, students have the Automated Clearing House (ACH) option — which deposits funds into their bank account — or the Original Credit Transaction (OCT) option, which allows institutions to push funds to a user’s existing debit card in 30 seconds or less.
2. Demote paper checks as an option
eRefunds provides the ability for students to choose between paper, ACH, or OCT payments. Higher ed institutions can make paper payments unavailable.
3. Send targeted messages
Under the communications menu in Bill+Payment operations, administrators can access the “messaging” tool and filter students by type. Consider filtering students without direct deposit profiles and sending targeted messages that remind them they will receive a refund quicker by creating a direct deposit profile.
4. Hold refunds
When generating a refund batch in Bill+Payment, schools can set a predetermined number of days to hold refunds. Consider putting a hold on refunds for students who have opted for check payments. During the hold period, administrators can communicate with these students regarding their pending refunds and offer suggestions to receive their payments much quicker by establishing a direct deposit profile.
For students who create a profile before the hold ends, schools can release their refund in the next batch of payments. Students who do not set up a profile receive their withheld refund via paper check when the hold expires.
5. Utilize account alerts
Institutions can create alerts that students see above their account balance upon signing in. These alerts remind students to set up a profile and include a clickable link to a refund menu where they can elect their preferred method for receiving refunds.
6. Mandate electronic deposits
Contrary to popular belief, colleges and universities can market direct electronic deposits as mandatory since administrators can now rely on sending digital checks directly to students’ school-issued email accounts. Enforcement was much more difficult when schools had to rely on paper checks.
Watch for Part 2 of our Secure Refunds electronic payments series, where we’ll explore the newest disbursement options available.