Becoming a Cashless Business Office

In Brief:

  • Understand the concept of a cashless Bursar’s office
  • Explore the process of “going cashless,” including contactless options
  • Learn how to create an effective implementation plan

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Nadine Nelson
Author: Nadine Nelson

With over 20 years of experience in higher education in marketing, enrollment management and student financial services, Nadine joined the Nelnet Campus commerce team in May 2018. She is passionate about marketing, the client experience and delivering on the brand promise. Born and raised in South Africa, Nadine came to the U.S. as an international student and completed a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in marketing and a Master degree in Business Administration at Andrews University in Michigan. Nadine is a champion of the student experience and loves to mentor young professionals. She resides in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband Vaughan and children Adele (7) and Brendan (4) – they love traveling, playing and family time.

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Definition of a Cashless Business Office

In March 2020 higher ed business offices had their workflows and procedures well documented and communicated with constituents, but when COVID-19 hit, things changed for everyone. Innovation along with new processes and procedures had to be created as institutions needed to adapt quickly to meet student needs under this new remote and contactless business model. Even without the pandemic, the need for change  in higher ed was necessary, the coronavirus, however, has accelerated these changes exponentially at many colleges and universities.

A cashless business office is much like it sounds. Cash payments aren’t accepted, paper check payments are minimized (and if they are accepted, they’re delivered to banks electronically), and kiosks or similar options are often provided for in-person electronic payments.

The cashless business office is the new opportunity for higher ed institutions to capitalize on digital and online payments. The goal is to be more secure, have fewer payments that require manual processing and in-person visits, and, at the end of the day, it also helps reduce fraud risk, streamline processes and innovate business procedures.

Why Make the Move Toward a Cashless and Contactless Operation?

COVID-19 has led many institutions to explore contactless office procedures, and going cashless in the business office accomplishes just that. When there aren’t physical cash deposits or the need for students to collect checks, in-person transactions can be eliminated. Cash deposits no longer need to be reconciled, armored vehicle services can be eliminated saving the institution money, efficiencies can be achieved, fraud and financial discrepancies are greatly reduced, and overall, payment transactions can be expedited.

Online payments also create a better experience for students and customers — one they’ve come to expect over time. In some ways, the current environment is here to stay. It’s on institutions to adapt.

North Carolina State University’s Story — Eliminating Cash Tuition Payments

In July 2008, North Carolina State University (NC State) began official discussions on what it would look like for their business office to only accept payments online. At the time, the move was seen as an outrageous goal that would essentially overhaul the payment process.

When budget cuts for the 2008-09 fiscal year took place, less business office staff members meant that the office needed to be more efficient — which led to online payments becoming a much more attractive option. A little less than a year later (in April of 2009), the institution announced to students and parents that in-person payments would no longer be accepted.

Almost to the institution’s surprise, there was little to no pushback from students or families. Online-only payments actually increased the efficiency of the payment process and saved the institution $60,000 in the first year. The personnel savings have been on-going.

How Virtual and Physical Business Offices Can Become Cashless

1. Examine your institution’s goals and objectives.

Aside from tuition and fees what other payments does your institution accept that cause frustration or inefficiencies? Is there the potential for online payments to solve those issues as well?

2. Perform a cost/benefit analysis

With in-person payments, there are a lot of logistical expenses to consider — costs like armored car services add up. The efficiency of a cashless business office not only saves time, but saves money.

3. Dig up data to prove your point

After you have a high-level idea of the costs and benefits associated with going cashless, it’s time to dig up data. What kinds of transactions are currently being accepted in person? Are more people using cards to make payments than cash? Overall, build up a case for online payments by gathering data that supports the transition.

4. Check statutes and regulations

Check in with any federal or state statutes or regulations that could prevent your office from going fully cashless. If there are obstacles in place, look for ways to maximize the amount of people making online payments rather than eliminating in-person payments.

5. Identify other areas that could go cashless

Look beyond the bursar’s office and identify other areas on campus where contactless or online payments can or should be implemented.

6. Map out processes

Find out what kind of technology your institution will need to make the change, and map out the processes you’ll need to go through to get there.

7. Get executive support

It’s time to make your case. Use the data and research you’ve accrued to gain approval and support from the top down.

8. Review plans and identify issues

Engage with your auditors to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible when you go cashless.

9. Connect with business partners

Think about how your business partners (like Nelnet Campus Commerce) can support your transition — they often have resources and expertise with projects like this, and can offer advice throughout your transition.

10. Communicate with customers

Finally, make sure your students, families, and stakeholders have all been notified many times about the move to cashless payments. By communicating clearly (and early on), you’ll save yourself headaches and difficult conversations down the road.

 

Want to hear more from David and Maria? Watch the full webinar and Q&A session at any time.

More: Download David’s industry insights paper —  Cashiering Migrating to Digital Payments (July 2020)