Every independent school business office knows that it’s a challenge to get enrollment contracts signed and returned in a timely manner. And that’s probably putting it lightly. That said, there are ways to aid the process, and following these five tips can help make contract collection smooth and stress-free for your school.
1. Let families know the contract is coming.
Email families at least a month before sending the contract to make them aware that it’s coming. Even though they expect to have a contract, no one likes to be blindsided with a hefty legal document. Let them know that it will arrive electronically to the email address you have on file, and if they need to log into your school’s website to complete it, provide info on how they can reset their password in case they’re forgotten.
Most importantly, highlight the contract due date so families can mark their calendar. Communicate this date early and often!
2. Explain important details to avoid surprises.
In the pre-contract email, explicitly explain the requirements families will need to review before signing the contract. Giving them time to prepare makes it more likely they will return the contract on time. For example, sometimes grandparents pay for their grandchild’s tuition, so the parents may need to contact them. Or, in divorced families, they need to ensure the right parent is receiving the email and has the necessary information.
Let families know what will be expected when they sign to avoid surprises. Inform them about the deposit, and if there’s a fee for paying it with a credit card, include that information. Also, alert them to decisions they may need to make in the contract. For example, will they have the option to purchase tuition or laptop insurance?
If students with tuition outstanding for the current year won’t receive a new contract before the balance is paid, make sure these families know. They may have forgotten and will be expecting next year’s contract in their inbox.
3. Test the contract system—then test it again.
Before you hit “send” on the contract email, test the system several times to ensure it works properly. Run through all of the scenarios that exist in your parent community such as a grandparent paying tuition, divorced parents splitting the payment, students receiving financial aid, or an international student with a higher tuition rate. As the saying goes, hell hath no fury like a parent who can’t successfully submit a contract and deposit online!
4. Talk with your parent “champions.”
Meet with the parents who are always involved and don’t shy away from telling you what they think. Ask for their feedback about last year’s enrollment contract communications. Was it clear? Did they know how to log in? What did they hear from fellow parents about returning the contract on time? You might be surprised at the feedback you get—both positive and negative.
Looking for buy-in from parents at this stage can go a long way in fostering positive parent-administrative relations. Another option is to have a business office representative attend a parent organization meeting to communicate how important it is for the school to receive contracts on time, and to answer any questions.
5. Make it easy to get help.
Despite all of your tests and best intentions, a parent will have trouble logging in . . . the financial aid won’t show up on a contract . . . or someone isn’t able to navigate the system. Consider holding office hours with representatives from the business office, financial aid, admissions, and IT all together for parents to ask questions in person. Sometimes it’s just easier to get face-to-face assistance instead of explaining the issue over the phone or email.
Stock the office with coffee and snacks to make what could be a stressful experience as pleasant for families as possible. Also, make sure to list the office hours in the contract email, and for those who don’t have the time to come in, provide a phone number and email address they can use for questions.
Learn how Blackbaud Enrollment Management System simplifies the admissions process for parents and administrators alike.
About the AuthorMore Content by Rebecca Delaney