Challenges with previous systems
Horace Knight describes their previous tuition solution as “a nightmare for families.” “We have to be flexible and nimble for our families. The payment plans offered by Smart Tuition/Blackbaud Tuition Management were often not what our families needed; and creating a plan as an exception to the rule was labor intensive and difficult. Even when we did the work, the lag time meant that we were fielding calls from families upset because they were receiving calls requesting immediate payment. It created a customer service nightmare and unnecessary stress for a lot of our families.”
The business office had similar frustrations. Prior to using VC Pay, Mary McDowell Friends School (MMFS) faced significant transfer delays, typically causing a two-week lag between when families made a payment and when funds were transferred and successfully received by the school. These delays also exacerbated an already intense and time-consuming manual importing and reconciling process for the business office. Additionally, as a school for students with learning disabilities, MMFS deals with unique Department of Education reimbursements, which often necessitate custom payment plans – flexibility that did not exist within their former system.
When looking for a new system, MMFS was seeking automation to reduce business office staff labor, payment plan options, and an overall better parent experience. McCormick recalls, “[After researching VC Pay], we saw that it had the features and flexibility that could transform our workflow and family experience.”
Transition to VC Pay and feedback from families
“I can’t tell you how many thank-yous I’ve received from families”, says Knight. “When it comes to accommodating our families, our previous system was stringent. Once we switched to VC Pay, we had payment plans that fit our families’ needs, fit the school’s needs, and made sense for everyone.” He adds, “it’s a huge benefit to be able to help our families as much as we can.”
Switching to VC Pay also gave MMFS the ability for families to pay by credit card, which Knight describes as “a big uplift for the school.” As was true of custom payment plans, Smart Tuition also required an “exception to the rule” for anyone needing to use credit cards for their payments. “We accepted them before, but it necessitated a one-on-one conversation and someone to key it in directly, which then involved security risks, so allowing our families this kind of easy payment via credit card was massive. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” says Knight.
McCormack adds, “There has also been a significant decrease in Veracross portal issues overall. Because parents are used to logging in and accessing their portal more frequently for payments, they are more familiar overall, and our tech support load has been lightened.”
Knight describes additional invoicing benefits to both school and parents: “One of the things that I was most pleased with was the auto reconciliation of payments. Once the family makes a payment online, it is tagged to their invoice, meaning less work for senior accounting and controller. Rather than chasing down confirmation with the bank to see if the check cleared, it is now just a click and everything is updated. This is big improvement over spending two or three hours trying to reconcile payments by getting a dump from Smart Tuition and then keying that information into the Veracross.”
Evolution of VC Pay during COVID-19
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, MMFS communicated directly with families about the benefits of VC Pay; using ACH is the same as putting your check in the mail, but even more secure. Knight says, “We’ve gone from a 60/40 split of those using VC Pay to those mailing checks to now having the large majority of our families using online payment.”
McCormack points out, “Another huge asset has again been the ability to customize payments and make accommodations for our families in a time when many of them have been deeply impacted by COVID-19. And rather than making those unique accommodations and having lag time of sending/receiving updated invoices etc., we can respond to family needs with immediacy through the portal and they can submit the corresponding payments in like fashion.”
McCormack also notes that communications overall have vastly improved and allowed for more personal family engagement. “Instead of relying on a third party, who does not know our families, our own staff is able to connect much more personally and manage those conversations in more fruitful ways. There is no more miscommunication with third party collection efforts or with pending payments not being tagged to invoices.”
Knight sums up MMFS’s experience with VC Pay, “Overall, it has been good for us and good for our families. It’s that simple.” McCormack adds, “It has paid dividends in terms of how it has impacted our community and organization. With our previous system, we had half a dozen issues over three years that went on long-term and impacted our bottom line. Since switching to VC Pay, that has just not been our experience. Things run smoothly. Reconciliation is simplified. Our families are happy.”
Webinar with Mary McDowell Friends School
The above case study was based on a webinar with Mary McDowell Friends School. If you would like to watch the video, click the icon.
Interested in learning more about VC Pay?
Contact us if you would like to learn more about VC Pay.