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Paying Tuition – How Can Universities Make It Painless?

ellucian live panel discussion aci worldwide

Six in ten families feel anxious about bills, five in ten paid a tuition bill late in the past year, and university student financial services leaders have fewer staff and smaller budgets to help families with their bills.

Millersville University, Ellucian and ACI Worldwide leaders came together to address these challenges at Ellucian Live last week. I sat down with Imre Gajari, director, Enterprise Applications, Millersville University, Bob Zwarycz, director Cloud Architecture, Ellucian and my colleague, Marc Sczesnak, director product management following our session, to find out how student financial services leaders can take the pain out of paying for college while saving their institution money.

Tom Gavin, ACI (TG): How can we make it easier for students and parents to pay tuition?

Imre Gajari, Millersville (IG): There are two main things universities can do to improve students’ and parents’ experience with payments. First of all, choice.  We need to offer a wide variety of options for how to pay, like credit card, eCheck and check to pay tuition in full or set up payment plans. Also critical is security; we should leave no doubt that their sensitive information will be kept safe.

TG: What specific steps is Millersville University taking to enhance the payments experience?

IG: We are offering a new student payment portal, which will allow students and parents to have an Amazon-like experience when they pay their tuition. Families can see all their account information online and pay quickly and easily in a single screen.

TG: How important is branding the payments experience to Millersville?

IG: It’s very important, we want to showcase the beauty of our campus, but we also want students and parents to have a seamless experience, without having to go to a separate website.

millersville university student payment portal

TG: How do solutions deployed in a cloud environment enhance the student experience?

Bob Zwarycz, Ellucian (BZ): colleges and universities can use the cloud deployed solutions to make improvements quicker and easier. Whether it’s for offering more convenient payment options or making it easier to achieve PCI compliance, the cloud is growing in popularity in higher education. Plus, the cloud can lower costs for colleges and universities by spreading security and infrastructure investments across thousands of clients.

TG: How can universities help families stop worrying about the high cost of education?

Marc Sczesnak, ACI (MS): We know from our own research the concerns that families have around higher education costs, but while student financial services leaders have offered payment plans for years, few families take advantage of them. However, 51 percent of families say a payment plan would help them worry less about college.

TG: What are some of the steps that bursars can take to see payment plan enrollment soar?

MS: First, combine payment plans into the center of their student payment portal. Then, ensure the entire payment plan experience matches the institution’s name and brand, and finally, automatically enroll all students who don’t pay their balance in full by the due date.

TG: How will student financial services offices enhance the student and payment experience?

MS: We recently worked with Ovum to survey higher education leaders. They told us they plan to focus on mobile and personal experiences. Optimizing eBilling for the mobile device gets the most attention – indicating this is one way that student financial services can enhance the student payment experience.

higher education billing survey

TS: How will Millersville University enhance payments efficiency?

IG: Put simply, we want to make it as easy as possible for students and parents to pay with as few clicks as possible. 

TG: What are the hottest trends around cloud efficiency?

BZ: Across the campus – student financial services, human resources, admissions – we’re seeing higher education institutions rely on a number of cloud services to move faster and at a lower cost.


Find out more about ACI’s Student Payment Portal.