In March 2020, school business offices had their workflows and procedures well documented and communicated with families. But when COVID-19 hit, new processes had to be created and institutions needed to adapt quickly to meet student needs under a contactless business (and academic) model. Even without the pandemic, the need for change in K-12 was necessary – the coronavirus, however, has accelerated these changes exponentially at many private and faith-based schools.
A cashless business office is much like it sounds. Cash payments aren’t accepted and paper check payments are minimized (and if they are accepted, they’re delivered to banks electronically).
The cashless business office is a new opportunity for K-12 institutions to capitalize on digital and online payments. The goal is to be more secure, and have fewer payments that require manual processing or in-person visits, but at the end of the day, it also helps reduce fraud risk, streamline processes, and innovate business procedures.
Why Move To a Cashless and Contactless Operation?
COVID-19 has led many institutions to explore contactless office procedures, and going cashless in the business office accomplishes just that. When there aren’t physical cash deposits or the need for families to pay by checks, in-person transactions can be eliminated. Cash deposits no longer need to be reconciled, and fraud and financial discrepancies are greatly reduced. This ultimately saves the school time and reputation loss, and expedites transactions.
Online payments also create a better experience for families – one they’ve come to expect over time. In many ways, the contactless operation is here to stay.
The Pine School’s Story – Going Paperless
This isn’t really a new concept. Schools have been striving to go green for years to limit their impact on the environment. But now we see a new benefit – a socially distanced payment, reducing the likelihood of virus spreading.
The Pine School in Stuart, Florida went paperless long ago and inadvertently achieved time and cost savings in doing so. Not only did they save valuable resources back then, but when COVID hit, moving to contactless payments was one less item on their to-do list. Read more about how they accomplished going paperless here.
How To Become a Cashless Business Office
- Examine your institution’s goals and objectives
Aside from tuition and fees, what other payments does your institution accept that cause frustration or inefficiencies? Evaluate the potential for online payments to solve those issues as well.
- Perform a cost/benefit analysis
With in-person payments, there are logistical expenses to consider – will families make their payments on time if they have to venture to the office? The efficiency of a cashless business office not only saves time, but saves money. And less time spent manually processing check and cash payments is more time to focus on the important issues students and families are facing now.
- Dig up data to prove your point
After you have a high-level idea of the costs and benefits associated with going cashless, it’s time to dig up data. What kinds of transactions are currently being accepted in person? Are more people using ACH or cards to make payments than cash? Will delinquency be reduced when payments are automated? (The answer to that is yes.) Survey families to understand their payment method preferences. Overall, build up a case for online payments by gathering data that supports the transition.
- Map out processes
Find out what kind of technology your institution will need to make the change, and map out the processes you’ll need to go through to get there.
- Get executive support
It’s time to make your case. Use the data and research you’ve accrued to gain approval and support from the top down.
- Connect with other areas of the school
Think about how other areas of your school can benefit from going contactless, such as the admissions/enrollment or development offices. Work together for the benefit of the entire school.
Finally, make sure your students, families, and stakeholders have all been notified many times about the elimination of cashless payments. By communicating clearly (and early on), you’ll save yourself difficult conversations down the road.