3 minute read

Addressing Unpaid Balances When Transcript Holds are Not an Option

7/18/2023 7:00 PM

Transcript holds for overdue balances have been a very hot topic in recent years. Many state legislatures have considered regulating the practice, some have already passed laws restricting or prohibiting it, and the federal government is actively scrutinizing this practice.

At the institutional level, some colleges and universities have adjusted their policies for transcript holds, such as only applying them for balances above a certain threshold, using them only for tuition balances and not fees and other charges, or holding transcripts only for non-financial reasons.

If transcript holds are less of an option now, or perhaps not an option at all, how can you engage students to resolve late balances or, better yet, prevent them from happening? Organizing and scheduling communications via payment solutions is proving to be a best practice to prevent and settle these situations.

Analyzing patterns for improved processes

Summer is the perfect time to prepare messaging to students, organize the process and timing of sending messages, and set up automations to reduce manual work on these ongoing tasks.

Step one is to analyze reports for trends in overdue balances. Understanding patterns will direct your ideas for how to prevent and reduce the problem. What are the most common causes of overdue balances? In contrast, what other causes are rare but lead to significant issues for students and staff? From the timing of due dates to registration procedures and payment plan options, look at the factors that influence a student’s ability to make payments on-time and in-full.

With a deeper understanding of trends in student account balances, you can figure out how best to positively influence behavior and receive more payments on time. A best practice is to determine the triggers for communications to be automatically sent to students – some common items that cause messages to be sent include:

  • Payment due dates
  • When an account balance passes a certain amount
  • Number of days since a student received message but did not respond
  • Number of days since a student logged into the payment system

Educating students on payment options

Another proven strategy to prevent unpaid balances is to educate students on payment processes, payment options, and policies. Some common practices include:

  • Remind students of financial responsibility agreements they consented to during enrollment
  • If your payment solution provides notification settings for students, make sure they set reminders for payment confirmations, statements, and due dates to be sent via their preferred communication method
  • Remind students to set up recurring payments and avoid missing a due date and any additional late fees, if available in your system
  • Continuously provide easy instructions of how to make payments in your system before a payment is due, when it is due, and after the due date
  • Inform students of options such as payment plans
  • Provide information on relevant campus resources, from financial aid to counseling

There are many more topics to educate students on, especially policies and processes specific to your institution. Take time to consider the most consequential topics affecting your student’s payment habits, what information addresses the topics, and when to deliver messaging on the topics to students.

Messaging students about their accounts

Even if your institution or state legislature bars you from placing holds for financial reasons, there is evidence that messaging a student about their account can prompt them to resolve the outstanding balance.

One TouchNet client uses Service Indicators through their TouchNet Bill+Payment Host Code Update feature to alert campus administrators when students who are enrolled in a TouchNet payment plan have past due installment. The administrators then communicate to these students about their balance. Within the first week of turning this feature on and sending messages to students, nearly 400 students reached out to the office to resolve their accounts.

Communicating is worth the return on investment

Just like professors who instruct and illuminate academic topics for students, staff can educate students on financial topics. And since many students may have never handled responsibilities like budgeting and payment processes before, guidance is needed. Consistently communicating with students to educate them on payments will pay off for you and your students.