Boldly ambitious and united in our desire to make a real difference for our clients.

Compassionate School Fee Collection

If your school families are falling behind on their fees, you might be wondering how to sensitively and proactively get them back on track. Check out our top tips from our skilled debtor management professionals. 

How to compassionately manage school fee collection for struggling families

One of the most discussed topics recently between Cole School Experts and schools is family finances. As many families feel the pinch of the recent cost of living crisis, schools are seeing more unpaid fees, along with late or partial payments. When this happens, it can be hard to know how to sensitively manage fee collection — particularly when families are doing it tough. After working with many schools to build a payment culture in their community, our team of Debtor Managers know firsthand how to support parents and caregivers to meet their obligations in a way that maintains a caring relationship between families and your finance team.

We asked one of our senior and most experienced Debtor Managers to share her tips of how to be both compassionate and effective in chasing families for outstanding fees.

Tip 1: Be proactive 

As we mentioned in our previous post, schools often have no idea that families are struggling until it’s too late. The last thing any school wants is for families to fall so far behind on their fee payments that they feel like they can’t catch up. Instead, we recommend that you are regularly reviewing your Aged Balance Reports and the payment plans that you have arranged with each family to ensure that they are meeting the fee payment requirements.

This doesn’t need to be time consuming: simply publishing a notice in your school app or newsletter reminding parents and caregivers about any upcoming deadlines could be enough. Encourage families to reach out if they will struggle to meet an upcoming payment deadline, and offer flexible alternatives to help them out, such as delaying a payment or entering a new financial arrangement. Being empathetic and understanding to each families current situation will encourage them to work with you in paying their outstanding fees. 

Tip 2: Have a plan in place for lower-income families

Families who waitlist their children at your school are often doing so because they feel it’s the best way to prepare them for a bright and happy future — regardless of the cost. This means many families don’t have a firm plan in place for how they will pay school fees until their child is at enrolment age and they need to make it work. Unfortunately, by this time, many parents or caregivers may not be earning the income they had hoped, and will need to refuse their place at your school. Alternatively, they may begin their journey at your school and then abruptly withdraw or unenrol their children if they are unable to pay their fees.

In this way, many schools miss out on adding amazing families into their community, simply because of unaffordability. Many of our partner schools don’t want to ‘lose’ these incredible families, and will proactively offer tiered fee discounts based on income levels. By making parents and caregivers aware that there is additional financial help available if they need it, they can better prepare to meet their fee obligations right from the start. 

Tip 3: Have a support available for when circumstances change

Many of our partner schools want to ensure that they can provide enough support families to keep their children enrolled, even when times are tough. One of the best ways to do so is to establish a support fund (often referred to as a compassionate bursary) that can be used to waive full or partial payments when families are struggling to make ends meet. When establishing this fund in your yearly school budget, consider if you will require certain criteria for families to access this fund, and how long the assistance will last. Alternatively, you may choose to work with families on a case-by-case basis to determine how much support they will need to get back on track with fee payments. 

It is strongly recommended that you draft a document to use as a template. It will be used each time you provide a bursary, and you can formally provide families with the specifics of what the bursary will include. This will ensure no misunderstandings for that years fees.

There are also many government or NGO programs or funds available to support struggling families — they just may not know about them. It helps to provide families with a number of resources that they can access to pay school fees. You can include this information in your fees brochure, enrolment documents and on your website. 

Tip 4: Choose your virtual finance carefully

If you decide to outsource your debtor management, it’s incredibly important that you work with a compassionate, understanding team who will be able to build rapport and trust with your school families. Rather than simply sending threatening letters or imposing penalties, a caring virtual finance team will call families first and work with them to get back on track.

Unfortunately, if all support and assistance has been exhausted with families and their accounts, and the school needs to consider the debt collection process, work with a team (like Cole School Experts) who are experienced in identifying those accounts. Our Debtor Managers can work with you to refer the matter to our partner Platinum Collection Agency. Platinum Collection Agency specifically works with school debt, so they have a complete understanding of how to treat and work with families to maintain the relationship between the family and the school.

At Cole School Experts, we have a team of trained finance professionals who understand the intricacies of working within schools. Our Debtor Management team will work with you to develop policies and procedures that encourage a payment culture at your school. From there, we will work through the outstanding accounts to identify at-risk families and then work with them to develop a plan to meet their financial obligations to your school. 

Looking for a virtual finance team to help your school navigate fee collection in this cost of living crisis? We’d love to help. Get to know the Cole School Experts team today.

Compassionate School Fee Collection