CTO/CIO Technical Support

Choosing an Online Payment System

online payment system
Written by Miguel Guhlin

Selecting an online payment system can be a headache at first. But once it’s in place, your staff will thank you. Here are some tips and tricks.

Need to start collecting payments from students, but don’t have a system in place? Take a moment to look at some criteria that will help you select an online payment system for your district. You will also find a short list of common payment systems in use in Texas schools.

Scenario

Over 800 AP exams totaling tens of thousands of dollar are manually processed. The High School Counseling Office expects to handle more than 1,000 exams during the current school year, at approximately $90 per AP exam at full price (slightly less for students on free/reduced lunch). A host of issues have arisen as a result of handling fees by hand, rather than through a web-based automated system. There is a clear need to streamline this process that brings in over $40,000 per year to the district, eliminating student and parent wait times and inconvenience. Given the AP exam fee program’s high participation, an online payment system is needed that addresses these issues. As the technology director, you have been charged with researching solutions and bringing a solution forward.

Possible Solutions

Looking for possible solutions? Here are a few in common use in Texas schools:

Features and Points to Keep in Mind

Here are some considerations you can use to make a selection:

Cost formula

  • Initial launch costs/Setup costs
  • First year cost
  • Maintenance cost for year 2 and beyond
  • Login identifies or provides for two payment tracks, including 1) free/reduced lunch or 2) regular.

Criteria

  • Customer experience
  • Bank transaction fee for processing payment (for example, $.42 of $10 payment)
  • Average cost for a district processing fee that can be charged to parents
  • Requires student/parent to agree to disclaimer that all payments are non-refundable, etc.
  • Online credit card payments are accepted and deposited in a school district account
  • Online echeck/direct withdrawal payments are accepted and deposited in a school district account
  • Online payment allows for partial payment options that include automatic withdrawal from customer credit card or bank account (eCheck)
  • Online refunds can be initiated as credits back to customer credit card or bank account
  • Solution provides for the ability to generate emailed purchase confirmations for customers
  • Solution provides for the ability to generate print receipts

Solution Administration

  • Training on administrative portal
  • Administration console available that provides access to various reports that allow staff to see who has paid for what and when
  • Administration console allows staff to enter information
  • Solution allows a campus to set pricing (e.g. $90) for each exam based on needs of student
  • Solution allows a campus to set a handling or processing fee for transaction
  • Solution allows a campus to set up discounts for payments made before a certain deadline
  • Solution allows a campus to turn it off/on as needed and post an announcement that purchases are no longer permitted
  • AP exams double-booking is prevented by registration

Marketing Materials/Support Available

  • Parent helpline to assist with online support

Technology Considerations

  • Import of data files for students that pre-populates data fields
  • Accepts https:// (SSL) secure web-based payments
  • Access to confidential student data is assured and verified by having a letter on file from the vendor

What payment processing solution have you adopted in your school district?

 

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About the author

Miguel Guhlin

Director of Professional Development at TCEA
A former director of technology, Miguel brings a unique perspective to TCEA’s professional development team. He specializes in Microsoft’s educational products and has extensive instructional technology experience. A prolific writer, Miguel blogs at Around the Corner and for TCEA’s TechNotes Blog. Miguel earned both his Master’s degree in Bicultural/Bilingual Studies with an ESL Concentration and his B.A. at University of Texas, San Antonio.

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