Making Families Happy with a Smooth Tuition Enrollment Process

March 15, 2019 Erin O'Keefe

Tuition enrollment season can be a bear for families and schools alike! But with proper preparation and clear communication, you can make it much easier for all involved, and pleased parents will put your school on the fast track to enrollment success. The following advice is useful for any school that’s looking ahead, but we’ve also included additional information for schools using Blackbaud Tuition Management™.

1. Determine the enrollment and re-enrollment processes that works best for your school.

Most tuition management systems have several enrollment and re-enrollment options. Your school should carefully weigh the pros and cons of each before making them available. For example, consider the options available in Blackbaud Tuition Management and how your school might handle them:

  • Automatic enrollment through the contract integration with Blackbaud Enrollment Management System™ provides the quickest and cleanest solution for both parents and the school.
  • Parents complete the online enrollment/re-enrollment process; this option removes the data entry responsibility from the school but is potentially redundant for families that have completed enrollment contracts.
  • The school provides family demographic information on a spreadsheet and then uploads it into the system; the parents are emailed a link to complete the enrollment process, which is a good way to split the workload between parents and the school.
  • The school manually completes the entire online enrollment/re-enrollment process for families using information supplied on the enrollment contract; this option isn’t ideal for schools looking to gain bulk efficiencies, but it is helpful in one-off situations where a family is unable to complete the enrollment themselves.

2. Communicate with your families in advance.

It’s critical to set expectations with payers. We recommend sending an advance communication 90 days before tuition enrollment begins, letting families know when enrollment starts, how the process is conducted, and what they should prepare in advance. For our schools, we have resources to help with this communication:

  • An introduction letter from the school to parents
  • Online enrollment instructions for parents
  • Online re-enrollment instructions for parents
  • Spreadsheet enrollment instructions

3. Set an enrollment deadline that works for everyone.

Give your payers an enrollment deadline that’s at least 60 days before their first payment due date. This will give your team time to review the billing application before the first welcome letter and invoice is generated—for Blackbaud schools, this is 20 days before the first payment due date. Our schools can also stay up to date on the enrollment progress by scheduling an enrollment report or by reviewing the Enrollment tab daily.

4. Have a plan for your administrative fee disclosure.

Whether or not your school discloses the administrative fee to families can have an impact on how the tuition management system is received. You know best how your families will react to an annual fee, but when explained, most payers understand there’s a cost associated with bookkeeping, invoicing, processing, and collecting tuition and fees. In Blackbaud Tuition Management, the administrative fee is collected with the first payment whether the school discloses it or not.

Bonus Tip: If the school is absorbing the administrative fee, consider building it into a school fee or the total tuition amount to recoup the expense. If you are displaying the fee and collecting the first payment in school, you will want to include this in the total collected.

5. Plan for late enrollments.

Even with the best advance communication and timely reminders, late enrollments are going to occur! The best thing you can do is get ahead of it by having a plan in place. Depending on your school’s policy, there are several options for handling late enrollments:

  • Add the missed payment amount to the next billed month on the plan.
  • Collect the missed payment in school and record as an in-school payment on the family account.
  • Spread missed payments evenly across the remaining payments in the plan.
  • If the school’s policy allows for an extension of the end month on the plan, this can be accommodated in Blackbaud Tuition Management—simply contact our support team.

6. Prepare the billing application.

To reduce the number of questions that your team receives, we recommend providing families with a comprehensive view of the amounts owed by including all ancillary fees and discounts along with tuition in your school’s billing application. In Blackbaud Tuition Management, you can set these fees and discounts up before enrollment. Depending on your reporting preferences, tuition can be applied as a standard tuition line or as a tuition fee. Billing can be applied automatically using the Contracts integration or our Rate Card feature. You can also apply billing in a batch or by submitting a data upload.

7. Review your records.

After your enrollment process is complete, compare your registration and billing records against the accounts receivable billing report in your tuition management system to confirm that all attendees are accounted for and your billing is correct. This report displays as the “A/R Billing Report” in Blackbaud Tuition Management.

Learn how your school can create efficiencies throughout the entire admissions process with The Connected Enrollment Experience from Blackbaud.

About the Author

Erin O'Keefe

Erin serves as a senior service delivery consultant for Blackbaud Tuition Management. Lending a helping hand is kind of her thing. She's been helping schools with tuition management since 2012, and in her free time, she loves assisting her local animal rescue organizations, one of which recently received a Blackbaud Community Matters grant.

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