Easy to create, update, and post online forms are key to school communication today. If the forms have a payment option, that’s just a bonus!
How to Interview a School Payments Company
Schools face several options when it comes to choosing the best online school payments software. Here are six questions to ask when looking for the right online payments system.
In 2019 the movie Bad Education came out. Starring Hugh Jackman, it was based on a true story about a superintendent who stole millions of dollars from his district. Aside from the superintendent being very corrupt, there was most likely a flaw in how they collected payments at the district—too much cash.
COVID-19 made online payments for schools a necessity; however, in this post-COVID landscape, there are some automations we don’t want to turn back. Grocery pickup is still easier than going into the store, subscribe-and-save is the fastest way to get your staples, and paying for school-related fees online is much easier than sending cash or check. You Have many options when it comes to picking the perfect company for their online payments software. Here are some important things to consider and to ask about when looking for the perfect fit for your school or district.
Is there an up-front or annual cost?
When it comes to online school payments solutions, you should never have to pay to play. That’s right: online school payments platforms are free—or at least they should be. There should be no up-front cost or annual fee, but there is going to be a credit card processing fee. That’s how the company makes their money: part goes to Visa or Mastercard, and the other part goes to the payments company. The school should have the option to choose whether to pass this fee on to their families or to cover it themselves and charge a little more for the item or activity. Some schools, if they are collecting donations, will opt to cover the fee.
TIP! Ask about a rebate program: the more your school spends, they can earn money back, or split the fees with the school once they reach a certain payment threshold.
Is there a limit on items you can list?
If you are a school district of ten schools, and each school needs its own store and has its own activity fees, you can imagine that there would be quite a few listings. Make sure your online school store software company doesn’t have restrictions on how many items you can list. The answer should be unlimited. Remember, they make money if you make money, so the more listings, the better!
Does my school need a merchant account?
A merchant account is sometimes needed to accept different types of transactions via debit or credit card. One reason schools choose to go with a school payments company is they do the heavy lifting with setting up the merchant account. Partnering with an online school payments company means they will be handling the agreement with the credit card companies and the fees and minimums associated with them. A follow up question to also ask is, are you able to flag a GL (general ledger) or revenue account when adding an item for purchase? For example, athletic fees into athletic accounts, AP testing fees into a curriculum account, etc. Setting up an online payments system with your school should eliminate steps with accounting, not add more work. Being able to allocate funds to the appropriate GL account makes reconciliation easier.
How easy is the checkout and user experience?
Raise your hand if you hate creating a profile for one-time purchases you make online! Ask if families and community members have to create a username and password to make a purchase from your school. Having a guest checkout option is great for community members paying for school play tickets, or that one homecoming game a year the entire town goes to. Families should be able to create an account if they wish and add their children so they can attach certain payments to each child if they want to. A couple other questions to ask when looking for online school store software, or to see in a demo are, how easy is it to use from the perspective of the shopper? Is there an app so they can do it from their phone? Could a grandparent purchase something from the school store and be able to figure it out?
How user-friendly is the software for the bookkeeper?
Again, this software should make life easier, not complicate things further. How easy is the payments platform to use from a bookkeeping perspective? How granular are the reports? Does it integrate with your school's accounting software? A school payments system should reduce the steps keeping you accountable for the school’s money. The automatic accounting (integrating with a system like EPES) reduces user error significantly. Because of an integration, the reports run will already be filled out. Then we don’t have that Hugh Jackman Bad Education scenario anymore.
How long is this going to take? What happens after?
Ask if a storefront will be built for your school, or will you have to build it yourself? Is there an SIS implementation?We all know the stress of implementing with your SIS. Having a payments company that doesn’t have to implement saves a lot of time and stress—and bottlenecks with data in the process. Ask questions like: what is the support like after implementation? This is a software, the company wants your school to be successful with the launch and the support should always be unlimited. Will you have a dedicated specialist to reach out to? Is there a project manager involved?
The Bad Education movie is a dramatic example of how school payments can get out of hand. If the school payments company could incorporate payments with the school website CMS, the fewer platforms the better! If you are looking to streamline the payments process, and have the cash go through fewer hands, please download our checklist below. We hope that OSP by Edlio is one of the companies you will consider in your interview process.
Download the interview worksheet here.