Chasing fees from parents can be one of the most burdensome, and awkward, tasks for a school.
This is not only because many schools rely on fees to operate but because failure to receive them can often result in the difficult last-ditch decision to send debt collectors after parents.
In 2015, it was reported that South Australian public schools billed parents an estimated $56.5m, close to the $61m paid by parents in NSW, which has more than four times as many students, but a voluntary fee system.
One year later, a private school that was left hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket as a result of parents’ unpaid fees said it had turned to debt collectors to recover the money.
Fortunately, research shows that more parents are avoiding this worst-case scenario by digitising their fee payments.
A report released last month by Deloitte found that digitising school payments can mean more teacher time, happier parents and thousands of dollars in savings.
The study found that schools could redirect more than 2,000 hours of teacher and admin time towards learning outcomes per school.
Richard Miller, Deloitte’s payments practice leader, said research shows that parents prefer the digitised option when making school payments because it is easier and more time-efficient for everyone involved.
“Given both improved satisfaction levels and the savings in time and costs, we expect more schools and their senior leadership will adopt digital apps and processes in the coming 12 months,” Miller said.
“Today – in 2017 – most of our primary and secondary schools enjoy high-speed internet and employ digital learning facilities. Yet the majority of schools around the country have not yet updated their admin systems and continue to take payments manually”.
Keith Brown, general manager of product, scheme and business development at BPAY Group, said there are already services and technology in the market can help make digitisation of payments a reality.
Brown told The Educator that one key benefit of this payment system is that it encourages parents to “pay on time, every time.”
“This means faster funds received back to the schools, allowing them to pay their own suppliers on time. It’s a win-win situation,” he said.
Brown said more schools are increasingly becoming aware of the value and benefits of digitising payments, but noted that there is always more to be done.
“In our digital world, schools need to be faster at adopting new and more convenient services to match the pace of customer demands, just like any other business,” he said.
“Time is precious in schools for everyone. Parents are calling for schools to be more accountable for their child’s learning, and the proper management of time and resources has a huge role to play in this.
“Schools need to be more appropriately informed about the benefits of digitising payments and be aware of the services already out there to help them with this digital journey.”