3 minute read

Combatting International Student Overpayments with Refunds and Regulation

6/30/2021 1:10 AM

With many universities delivering curriculum online and students learning remotely over the past year, some of the tuition and/or fees associated with attending universities had to be refunded by universities. Returning these funds to international students – many of which may have never even traveled to campus at all – can be particularly challenging for universities, especially when it comes to foreign exchange and how the payments were made initially. 

In order to attract international students in 2021, it is important that universities integrate single and bulk refunds into their payments processes. Not only is this helpful when it comes to the evolving way in which curriculum is delivered, but it can also help universities combat overpayments and money laundering. 

Even if your institution has streamlined student payments, returning overpayments or refunds isn’t always easy. During COVID, the slower process of refunds by universities and varying expectations of students led to a number of student-led lawsuits demanding refunds. An established refunds policy and a seamless way to deliver those funds could have helped many of those universities shield themselves from litigation.

Even before and after the pandemic, a refunds solution can be incredibly helpful for universities. Sometimes, international students overpay their tuition and fees – either on purpose or by accident – which means the university has to send back the excess funds. 

Many international student payments are processed by a third party, which makes it difficult to ensure the refund reaches the student. International payment companies have started to make the process more efficient. TransferMate Global Payments, for example, has integrated single and mass refunds into its portal for universities at no additional cost. 

Unlike other educational payment providers, TransferMate can also deliver the refund to students who didn’t make their original payment through TransferMate. For universities, this streamlined process can save significant time for administration staff and it eliminates wire fees charged when sending the funds back to the student in their home country through traditional bank transfer. 

For years, overpayments and refunds have been a topic of interest for universities because, in some cases, the overpayment is a red flag for money laundering. The payment to the university should only contain the tuition or fee amount on the student invoice. The issue has many legal implications, to the point that the National Association or College and University Business Officers released a guide on overpayments. 

In other cases, the overpayments are more of an innocent mistake due to translations or foreign exchange calculations. Many students pay from their home country bank account, so sometimes the amount received by the university will not match the invoiced amount, due to bank fees, FX rates or human error. With international payment firms like TransferMate, universities and their students can let TransferMate handle the transfer and pay in their local currency. TransferMate, which is globally regulated to make international payments, handles the transaction and delivers it directly to the university in the correct currency, ensuring the amount is correct and reducing overpayments. 

For more information on seamless education refunds, email [email protected].