How a shift to digital can help universities attract students

Ensuring your institution’s digital payment efforts help to attract and retain students

Nobody would have predicted the paradigm shift that has occurred in the education sector as a result of the global pandemic. The move to virtual teaching, remote learning and online social activities have completely altered the education journey for a generation of students.

Those pursuing higher education are currently doing so in largely a digital environment. This has left many students and families closely examining their educational experience, which might be a world away from what they were expecting, while forcing institutions to find ways to deliver high-quality education at the same value as before.

Those commencing their studies will be looking for a seamless, flexible, digital experience that’s worth the cost of their tuition. This means schools must put their best foot forward and that starts with the payment process. According to a recent Flywire study, the majority of students feel that a painfully slow payment experience paints a negative picture of the university at hand. That’s why it’s of paramount importance to get the education payment experience right, or schools risk losing out on talented students.

Here are three steps universities can take to ensure their digital payment efforts help to attract and retain students – which is incredibly important for any institution recovering from the pandemic.

  1. Boost confidence through clarity

Our experience with students, families and education agents worldwide reveals a general consensus: undoubtedly, there is a nervousness associated with enrolling for university in the current climate. There are safety issues pertaining to travel to and from universities, as well as attendance on-campus and concerns around course formats – such as how often classes will be delivered online versus on-site. Clarity is key. Even if these factors are still being determined, universities should aim to craft clear policies, giving students and families the comfort and confidence needed to enrol.

“Our experience with students, families and education agents worldwide reveals a general consensus: undoubtedly, there is a nervousness associated with enrolling for university in the current climate”

Education agents specifically suggest implementing the following policies to help retain and drive enrolment: the first is to ask students who have already been accepted for upcoming studies to commit to their desired programme in line with the deadlines stated in their offer. Reminding students of these timeframes can help universities to better plan with a more accurate view of total numbers per course. Secondly, it’s wise to operate on the assumption that every student’s commitment is contingent on having a safe campus that’s open to all, and that the course will deliver the expected student experience, from both a lifestyle and academic perspective. If ‘normal accessibility’ and a ‘normal experience’ isn’t possible, make sure online learning options are made immediately available and offer to defer their entry until such conditions are met.

  1. Support affordability through flexible payment plans

In the face of a pandemic, students are facing unprecedented affordability challenges, increasing reliance on both financial aid and payment plans. The knock-on effect is an increased demand for payment flexibility from universities.

Payment plans must be made available to all students, allowing them to spread expenses across smaller, easier-to-manage payments. Not only does this reduce stress in making large-sum payments, but it also helps budgeting and planning when cash flow is uncertain. Universities could also consider modifying standard terms to pause or extend payment periods depending on a student’s situation which could see more students committing to studies despite affordability challenges.

  1. Addressing visa requirements

The pandemic has disrupted international and domestic travel immensely, with many countries still imposing restrictions. Uncertainty around visa requirements can be unnerving for international students during a regular school year, notwithstanding the added pressure of travel restrictions and a pandemic.

Universities need to appoint dedicated representatives and administrators to help students navigate the visa process. By providing accurate information on visa availability and changing regulation updates, students will feel better equipped to make a decision to whether to enrol, armed with a clear sense for changing requirements and how this is evolving in line with the pandemic. This network should be built to support students initiating the visa process, those with visas that could be subject to travel disruption, and those looking to extend post-study visas.

Now, digital is critical

With the world still recovering from the pandemic, education institutions need to reinvigorate student enrolment, and in a time when physical footprints have become scarce, increasingly, this can only be achieved through the shift to digital.

By digitising all education payments – not just tuition fees – schools can lay a solid foundation for a more compelling and holistic student experience; as well as one with lower barriers to entry. Making large sum international tuition payments can be challenging, but digital solutions can ease this process. Following the few strategies outlined above, universities can leverage payments to attract students and increase enrolment.

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