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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.