Demise of cash to benefit colleges


09 September 2013

Capita has launched a paper exploring the current and future benefits of card payments in further education (FE) colleges. Recent figures* indicate that people spent 10 per cent less in cash in 2012 than in the previous year, as they increasingly turn to debit cards and online spending.

The paper explores how different payment channels, immediate processing of payments and the increased use of cards create choice and convenience for students, while enabling colleges to improve efficiency, increase cash flow and reduce their levels of debt. An integrated payment solution also offers greater benefits to colleges and students.

Integrated systems allow colleges’ student records and finance systems to be updated when a payment has been made, regardless of the channel. Payments made via alternative solutions, such as a bank-owned terminal, or a website which is not integrated, require these important management systems to be manually updated leading to delays, potential typing errors and additional work for staff. 

The report also revealed that acceptance of card payments can help:

  • Meet student expectations when it comes to making payments
  • Enable colleges to integrate the payment management system with other student management systems and reporting tools
  • Drive faster receipt of income
  • Improve cashflow/debt collection for  colleges
  • Support more efficient processes
  • Enable colleges to take payments right across the campus

 Jon Peart, director, payment solutions at Capita’s software services business, commented: “Most colleges will already take card payments using standalone bank-owned terminals, similar to those seen in restaurants, where they are completely separate from the till system. Colleges may also already have a web page where students can input their details and make a payment online.

“Few colleges are reaping the full benefits that card payments can provide. Adjusting the way colleges receive payments can improve cash flow, reduce administration, lead to less time spent chasing debt and ultimately, make life at the college more convenient for staff and students.”

Avenues colleges could explore in order to further facilitate and encourage card payments include:

  • Introducing a payment system which integrates with student records and finance
  • Offering online payment solutions that integrate with online enrolments
  • Expanding payment channels and access to solutions which take payments
  • Using card payments to reduce levels of debt owed by the students, in areas such as course fees.
  • Enabling students to make payments via their smartphone

“Our college has five sites spread over a 30-mile radius and we had a problem in that card payments were becoming more popular but we could only take cash or cheque,” said Marlene Anderson, finance manager at Angus College. “That’s when we decided to start taking cards and now, using an integrated payment management system, there are no barriers to receiving payment.”

 

“We are getting all of our fee debt cleared much faster now,” says Douglas Robertson, the finance manager at West Lothian College. “It has improved our year end – the new payment system went live this year and we are already ahead of target in terms of debt reconciliation and the figures will be even better next year.”

Students are required to pay for a number of items during their daily college lives from tuition course fees and accommodation through to car parking spaces, food in the cafeteria and course materials.

Alex Richards, assistant principal, college services at Totton College, said: “The needs of the learner is at the heart of what we do. We have a secure payment system that fully integrates with our student record system, meaning that we have a real-time record of what has been paid and what is still owed. Our staff find the payment processes efficient and all transactions are automatically receipted for analysed and reported in our student records system. Furthermore, our students find it easier to keep up-to-date with their payments.”


Click here to request your copy of, The winning card - A senior finance professional’s guide to getting the most from card payments in further education colleges
 * British Retail Consortium (BRC), May 2013