Finding Payment Solutions That Support Students and Educators Alike – Pay@

By Clinton Leask, Business Development Lead, Pay@

Education is a cornerstone of our country’s future success, yet the burden of tuition fees, combined with the current cost-of-living crisis, are the cause of a great deal of stress and anxiety for parents and students. At the same time, student debt is a worrisome burden for tertiary education institutions.

In January 2023, tertiary education student debt hit an all-time high of R16,5 billion, prompting the Minster of Education Blade Mzimande to comment that the extent of it posed a serious threat to the future sustainability of the country’s higher education institutions. Many parents and families make great sacrifices to ensure that their children have the opportunity to study further. Creating payment solutions that make it easier to stay up to date with fees is a critical part of ensuring that the country develops skills for the future.

Further education is seen as the most important path to a brighter future

For many parents and students, the prospect of having a degree under the belt raises hopes of that young person finding lasting employment, thereby creating a better future, not just for themselves, but also with the hope of improving their entire family’s circumstances. It’s no surprise that one of the biggest debt priorities for parents and students alike is paying for their tertiary education, whether at university or a FET (Further Education and Training) or TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) college. And it’s equally unsurprising that providing tertiary education for promising students is a family undertaking for many South Africans.

In 2020, an estimated 75% of first-year students were the first in their family to attend university. For many first-generation students, it’s a family-wide project to support their education dreams. Parents, aunts and uncles, and extended family may all wish to contribute to the school fees. Currently, this is an onerous proposition, particularly for parents or extended family members who reside in a different province to the student’s tertiary college or university.

Safe, simple and accessible options ease the burden of payment

Currently, some students have no option but to travel to their educational institutions with a large sum of cash in order to pay fees. This is not only a risk to their security, but parents must rely on their children to be responsible for this cash and ensure that the payment gets made. For unbanked and underbanked parents and students, tuition payments can cause a great deal of stress and worry, as they either do not have access to digital payment platforms and channels, or for a variety of reasons, prefer to pay tuition fees in cash.

Payment aggregator Pay@ recognised that the education sector needs solutions that provide parents and students with peace of mind that their payments are being received. Additionally, there was a need for convenience of making either cash payments, digital payments using an app or a QR code, through their own banking app, or via an EFT on the Pay@ platform. Those responsible for tuition fees need a reliable, safe payment option that allows them to make monthly payments in a place of convenience, even if they themselves are unbanked or underbanked.

Payment solutions that keep track for education institutions

Using a unique payment reference number from a WhatsApp message, SMS notification or email invoice, parents and other family members can conveniently pay tuition fees in cash using the extensive retail payment network across outlets such as PEP, Spar, Shoprite, Checkers, Game, Pick ‘n Pay or Boxer stores, receiving an instant payment confirmation for both the payer and the institution.

The option to make cash payments through the retailer network also helps educational institutions manage payments more securely. Cash on premise is both expensive to handle and increases their security risks, particularly at key times of the year such as registration weeks, where a high volume of cash poses a significant security risk. By enabling payments through Pay@, educational institutions benefit from shorter on-site queues at peak times and less cash in hand, whether it’s a once-a-year registration fee, or a monthly tuition fee.

Digital payment options are increasingly popular

Of course, not all students or parents want to pay tuition fees using cash. Digital payment options such as In-App payments and QR codes to scan are also booming in popularity as more and more people with access to smartphones look to manage their tuition payments. The advantage for educational institutions is that easily accessible links shared via smartphone and digital platforms provides multiple frictionless payment options for their customers while streamlining their payment management.

Educational institutions can issue a secure link to pay via an SMS, Email or WhatsApp message, and customers get a seamless payment experience using the digital payment option of their choice, whether that is using their banking app, paying by card, Pay with EFT or through payments app like Snapscan, Zapper and Scan to Pay.

Safe, reliable and easy to use

For universities and colleges, keeping track of payments from multiple sources is an administrative challenge, and reconciliations can be onerous to manage, particularly when payments are received from multiple sources for one account, with the advantages of a centralised platform that offers convenience and security. It reconciles the payments, manages all the fees and settlements, and provides a light solution from an accounting or management perspective. Additionally, when using Pay@Go no API is required and there is no cost to the educational institution for the integration.

The company has had great success in helping the insurance industry streamline payments through its large retail, banking and digital network, catering to everyone from the unbanked to the digitally sophisticated user.

Understanding how valuable and important a good education is, the company has now developed payment journeys that provide a seamless and frictionless experience for those responsible for tuition fees while relieving the administrative burden from higher education institutions. Pay@ guarantees that there are no lost payments or incorrect allocations. Through one single integration, educational institutions open a massive network of retailer, digital and banking payment options, bringing convenience to anyone responsible for paying tuition fees.

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