Payments for everything from accommodation, catering, student activities and facilities at college or university can be made by young people, their parents or carers, even by grandparents. But that also means that payment processing for universities and colleges must be able to accommodate the variety of ways in which different groups prefer to pay.
Across all walks of life, digitisation continues to play a key role, and as a direct result, the majority of payments made are now cashless. In fact, according to PWC, there has been a 42% increase in cashless payment volumes globally. For every kind of organisation responsible for payment processing, what goes hand-in-hand with this trend is an ongoing focus on important areas such as cybersecurity and the impact of increasing regulation.
For the higher education sector in particular, offering choice when it comes to payment continues to be an important way of delivering good service. A key part of this is that although many people might favour contactless payments, some (such as older parents or grandparents for example) may still prefer other traditional payment options such as the ability to pay via phone. The problem is that offering multiple options can create compliance concerns for universities and colleges. Clearly these must be actively addressed in order to minimise the risk of fines or data breaches.
For universities and colleges keen to maintain a range of payment options to suit the needs of multiple audiences and a range of payment scenarios, putting in place payment processing technology can make all the difference. With the right tools in place, the Finance team can process online, face-to-face, telephone and contactless payments with ease. Bear in mind too that when payments are processed quickly and efficiently, the impact on cashflow and revenue generation is also positive.
The current legal standards for card payment processing stipulate a number of requirements including:
Adhering to all of this is inherently difficult (if not impossible) to do manually.
Taking payments over the phone is one area that can be challenging to get right from a security perspective. For example, problems can occur when staff write down card details to process later or verbally check card details with the card holder by repeating them back when others in the office can overhear. The PCI DSS procedures stipulate that the three or four digit code usually printed on the back of a card cannot be retained after the payment authorisation has been completed. In practice, this means that if your university or college records phone calls (for staff training purposes for example) then this would technically constitute a breach, even if this was unintentional.
The good news is that there are payment solutions for universities and colleges that can help reduce their compliance and administrative burden, simplify processes, and ultimately reduce risk across all communications channels – including when taking phone payments.
Understandably, the standards now required for digital payments include high levels of security to protect all parties from bad actors or data breaches. Software used for payment processing for universities must incorporate robust security measures to protect sensitive payment data. This includes encryption, tokenization, and adherence to all the various PCI DSS compliance requirements.
As well as defining payment processing standards, the PCI DSS also stipulates that universities and colleges must be able to prove they’re compliant. Access PaySuite's education payment processing software does this by incorporating an auditable trail across the payment lifecycle. Trying to operate without this means risking additional monthly PCI charges or potentially having the ability to process card payments withdrawn completely. And if there is a data breach, significant fines and huge reputational damage can swiftly follow.
In addition, payment processing software for colleges and universities can be designed to comply with other specific regulations too, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) which ensure that student and parent information is handled appropriately and securely.
One of the added benefits of introducing payment processing for education is that modern software will include automation to support the Finance team and smooth the payment process. There are lots of areas where this makes a difference including automated compliance checks to verify that transactions adhere to regulatory requirements; alerts for suspicious activity; fraud prevention measures; and adherence to transaction limits.
Modern payment processing software designed with the needs of universities and colleges in mind can also be integrated with other institutional systems covering core areas such as student information or accounts. Working with a payment processing provider that is familiar with these types of systems and able to integrate effectively with them will unlock further advantages. Good examples include more streamlined and faster payment processes as well as improved accuracy (no need for rekeying) and ease of reporting.