Online payments help students access funds faster and avoid late fees
For years, UW students received their financial aid and paid tuition using paper checks. Financial aid checks from the UW could take up to 10 days to arrive in the mail—a long time for a student to wait for funds to pay for housing, books, and other school expenses. At the same time, students’ tuition checks could also take a long time to reach the University. Mail was a lengthy and unsafe way of sending funds.
Student Fiscal Services (SFS) saw the opportunity to streamline this process, saving students both time and money. SFS made online payments possible for tuition, and encouraged students to switch to direct deposit for aid refunds.
Even so, not all students took advantage of online transactions.
To increase student participation, more recently, SFS further streamlined their online processes and refined communications. They shared with students the benefits of online payments—the safest and easiest ways to pay bills and to avoid lost checks, late payments, and late fees. SFS also highlighted the convenience of signing up for direct deposit, which can give students access to their funds within 48 hours to pay for books, housing and other expenses.
The result? Now, nearly 90 percent of aid is sent via direct deposit, and 86 percent of tuition and fee payments are made online. Students have access to aid funds as soon as possible to help with their expenses. These changes have reduced collection and processing efforts for SFS—and, more importantly, students’ stress over late fees. In comparison, peer institutions send less than 80 percent of aid refunds by direct deposit and receive less than 70 percent of tuition payments online.
Serving students more, with less
84,000 students served in 2017-18
Student Fiscal Services’ improved processes have made it possible for each staff member to serve more students. Based on recent NACUBO Benchmark data, UW SFS averaged 2,297 students served per FTE, well over the peer average of 1,674 students. And the cost per student served is $41 for UW SFS compared to $60 for peers.
These improvements have made a difference in the lives of many Huskies. During the 2017-18 academic year alone, SFS served 84,000 students and processed over $950 million in tuition and fees.
Listening to customers results in continuous improvement—and recognition
Financial aid often includes state or federal loans or grants, departmental scholarships, or funds from organizations outside the UW which can create some confusion to students and parents on how to best utilize the funds. Based on feedback, SFS realized there was a need to increase outreach, collaborate with departments, and ensure students get the financial guidance they need to help them manage their finances and navigate UW payment processes.
As a result, SFS increased its focus on improving financial literacy for students. In the last year, SFS held over 120 orientation and training sessions reaching over 14,000 students and parents, a 35 percent increase since 2015.
The unit was recognized for its service on the 2017 TAP Administrative Unit Customer Service survey. And SFS has continued to improve. As a result, it has maintained a 98 percent customer satisfaction rate for in-person services on more recent surveys.
Feedback from students and other service partners has made improvements like these possible. The 2019 TAP survey will open in late January. Please visit the survey website to learn more.