The Other Student Debt Crisis: Institutional Debt

Inside Higher ED recently published an opinion piece focused on the unpaid tuition and fees that are forcing students to leave school without a diploma.  According to EAB, an education research firm, “Nearly 1 million students withdraw each year, for unpaid balances.” The majority struggle term to term to pay tuition, rent, food, health care and child care.

Nearly 1 million students withdraw each year, for unpaid balances.

Author David Scobey points out that current policies and practices are a barrier to student success and contribute to revenue loss. For example, a “bursar hold” blocks access to transcripts and continued enrollment, preventing the student from completing their education securing employment.

Keep in mind that 80% of students who leave school are in good academic standing and only owe an average of 10-20% of their unsettled bill. One in six delinquent students are referred to third-party collection agencies, adding up to 30% in fees to their already past due student account.

Scobey suggests that institutions need to change their approach and look for new financial strategies. OnPlanU’s industry leading receivables management and collection system proactively reaches out, via text, email and/or automated phone call, to students who have overdue accounts. The program offers customized payment plans to match students’ unique circumstances, while improving student retention and loyalty. OnPlanU’s 24/7 self-service environment allows students to login at any time from any device—computer, tablet or mobile device.

In 18 months, the OnPlanU pre-collect system collected on 20% of the placed accounts, saving James Madison University $320,000 in collection agency fees.

OnPlanU’s innovative, yet simple collection solution can help solve this student debt crisis. To learn more, contact Billi Tilly (btilly@onplanu.com) or Judith Flink (jflink@onplanu.com).

Student Receivables

ISLA Schools Excited About the Latest Trends in Internal Collection Methods

OnPlan CTO David King recently presented to Illinois school administrators at this year’s Illinois Student Loan & Receivables Administrators Conference. After reviewing the latest trends in internal collections as well as the challenges institutions are facing with accounts receivable recovery, King introduced OnPlanU’s innovative solutions to improve internal collections. Participants were especially excited about UCollect, OnPlan’s pre-collection solution that provides an automated method for institutions to manage and collect on past due tuition and fee accounts. If you’d like to hear more about OnPlan’s full suite of billing and collections solutions, contact Judith Flink at jflink@onplanu.com.

Student Receivables

Collecting on Student Receivables


Spotlight on JMU: How One Virginia School Partnered with OnPlanU to Keep Students OUT of Collections and In the Classroom

A recent article in The Washington Post entitled “Universities in Va. hit students with whopping collection fees for unpaid tuition” highlights the urgent need for colleges and universities to offer re-payment terms for their students who drop out or still owe a balance after classes end. The gap between financial aid and tuition and fees continues to expand. In most cases students don’t realize the gap until the traditional payment plan enrollment period has closed. Oftentimes, they find themselves without the financial support needed to cover their academic expenses.

It is critical that institutions engage at the first point of delinquency so that students’ exposure to costly collection fees is eliminated. This strategy not only helps reduce the student’s debt and improve their ability to stay enrolled, it also increases the institution’s likelihood to collect balances, while fostering an overall spirit of goodwill among the school’s student population. Although Virginia schools are the focus of this piece, the problem exists nationwide: students want to pay their tuition but either can’t afford to pay all at once or they fall behind and are looking for a way to catch up while staying enrolled. Even the most well-intentioned students frequently end up dropping out of school when they can’t keep up with their payments. And with collection agency fees of up to 30 percent, these students not only miss out on their education, but are also charged exorbitant fees, take a hit to their credit rating, and suffer the many long-term impacts of being saddled with bad debt.

James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, is one school that recognizes how both the student and the institution suffer when there is a discrepancy between students’ ability to pay and their payment obligations. Early last year, JMU implemented OnPlanU’s Pre-Collect solution to provide their students with an innovative payment plan option to make repaying easier and more affordable while improving account recovery for JMU.

“We’re thrilled with the results we’ve seen since implementing OnPlan’s Pre-Collect system. Our cash collections have increased significantly and our students appreciate the affordable payment options and how easy the system is to use.”
Linda Combs
Director, University Business Office | James Madison University

Once JMU determines which accounts to place in OnPlanU’s Pre-Collect system, the system proactively communicates with students to engage them to pay their outstanding balance. By reaching out to students an average of 60 days before traditional collection activities would normally begin, OnPlanU reduces the number of delinquent accounts that would ultimately need to go to collections by an average of 20 percent. Pre-Collect offers students several customized payment options, and makes it easy to activate a payment plan and make payments on any device they choose. Students agree to a nominal one-time enrollment fee to activate the plan.

Within the first 18 months, OnPlanU collected on over 15 percent of the placed accounts, saving JMU students $182,000 in collection agency fees.

JMU’s foresight prompted them to implement a solution that avoids sending their students to collections and retains students who may have once had no option but to drop out. As more schools realize the benefits of OnPlanU’s Pre-Collect solution, JMU can be looked at as a model of success.

To learn more about the OnPlanU Pre-Collect solution, contact Judith Flink at jflink@onplanu.com.