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Ursinus College: The Future of Campus Commerce is in the Cloud

Ursinus College: The Future of Campus Commerce is in the Cloud

Sixty-eight percent of schools are moving eCommerce to the cloudi.  As Ellucian Live begins to descend upon San Diego this week, ACI’s Gene Scriven took a moment to chat with Ellen Curcio, Director of Student Accounts at Ursinus College, about the future of campus commerce.

Be sure to catch Ellen and Gene, as well as ACI partner and host Ellucian at the event on Wednesday, April 11, for a panel discussion on “The Future of eCommerce in the Cloud.”

Gene Scriven: I’m looking forward to our discussion at Ellucian Live later this week. What are you hoping to highlight during the conversation as it relates to Ursinus College?

Ellen Curcio: I’m the end user so I have a different perspective than an IT person would on this topic. In my opinion, moving to the cloud is a faster, more secure, and user-friendly way to make the payment process much better for students and families. Of course, from a business standpoint, we’ve lowered our costs, improved the speed with which we can offer new payments services, and we’re now able to catch up to student demand for easy ways to pay. Because we are a smaller college with a smaller staff, we rely heavily on partners like Ellucian and ACI to help make things better for students.

GS: You mentioned security, which is a big concern for colleges and universities. One survey showed that 21% of colleges and universities have had payments data stolen in the past year. How is Ursinus College addressing these concerns?

EC: One of the drivers of moving to cloud computing for us is the rock-solid level of security that’s available today. Our IT staff makes sure we’re secure with our student logons. Students use single sign-on to access their accounts, and unless they share it with someone else, their information is secure. In addition, to make sure we’re compliant, we rely heavily on our vendors to monitor and ensure there is a high level of security available in the cloud.

Moreover, if I receive a call and someone wants to make a payment on the phone, I can enter the payment directly on the website, without having to physically write down information that later needs to be shredded. So, any sensitive data is always protected.

GS: What are some advancements in campus payments that students and families of Ursinus College can benefit from?

EC: We offer students and parents convenient, secure online payment options. Parents and third parties can have proxy access to student accounts, so if the student fails to make a payment, parents can submit a payment on their behalf. While some still use paper checks to make payments, each year we’ve seen a rise in the popularity of online payments.

Last year, after seeing the success of online payments, we began to offer automatic payments plans to reduce the effort on the part of students and their families in making payments that were timebound. Many times, delinquent payments are simply the result of a student forgetting to make the payment on time. After implementing automatic payment plans, we’ve seen a reduction in delinquent payments from 5% to 2% within one year.

GS: The faster payments initiative is making its way to the US; what are your thoughts on faster payments – how will that improve the experience for students? What benefits will students/parents be able to get from faster payments?

EC: In my opinion, any opportunity to make payments user-friendly, easier and faster for families and students is something that would no doubt work well. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of delinquent payments are simply a result of students forgetting to make a payment on time. When they do remember to pay, they get further delayed by the time it takes for banks to transfer the money. With faster payments, students will benefit from the ability to make last-minute bill payments whenever necessary. Additionally, if we have to issue any student refunds, we would be able to instantly transfer funds back to the student account, which would make a huge impact on customer satisfaction. We’re always open to new ideas in technology that can service our families and students better.

GS: Studies have shown that real-time higher education payments will grow more than 80% annually from 2018-22, and 25% of online bill payments to colleges and universities will be real-time by 2022; Is Ursinus College looking to move towards real-time payments soon?

EC: From a business perspective, the faster we can get paid, the better it is. Most of our student payments come in within three weeks of the start of the semester, so to be able to reduce that time to an “instant” would be excellent and something we would certainly look forward to.

GS: What are your thoughts on the future of campus commerce? What can students and parents expect to see over the next few years across North America as far as campus commerce is concerned?

EC: We’re finding that a majority of our payments are still coming in by check, which we access through our lockbox through the bank. I personally don’t write many checks, so this seems almost archaic to me. I think we will see a huge shift to online payments and fewer checks, especially as security becomes a concern. Paper checks are far less secure than online payments, and people will be less likely to physically write a check, go to the post office, mail it, and then wait until the recipient receives and deposits it. In addition, with faster payments, the ability to make payments using smartphones, and tap-to-pay will take the younger generation over by storm. They’re already glued to their phones!


ACI’s Gene Scriven and Tom Gavin will join Ursinus College’s Ellen Curcio, as well as Ellucian’s Bob Zwarycz at Ellucian Live, to discuss The Future of eCommerce in the Cloud on Wednesday, April 11 in room 25B.

i Ovum’s Global Payments Insight survey sponsored by ACI Worldwide