Making it easier to collect payments campuswide
Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, is one of the largest school districts in the country with more than 100,000 students. It takes time and personnel to process the vast number of cash and check payments for registration fees, field trips, athletics, donations and concessions, among other items. Until 2019, credit and debit cards were not acceptable forms of payment.
Hannah Lehman, supervisor of accounting for the district, knew there was a solution for accepting more than just cash and checks, which she had seen for herself. In her previous role, Lehman was the finance coordinator for the district’s food service department, which used Heartland School Solutions’ MySchoolBucks, an online service allowing parents to manage lunch accounts and pay online.
After putting out a request for proposal for vendors, the district selected MySchoolBucks to accept and process credit and debit card payments in person and online.
Time, money and resources were challenges as district bookkeepers were going to the bank “constantly” to deposit cash and checks.
Now, with MySchoolBucks, payments can take place at the main office, in the classroom, online, or at the concession stand or ticket office. MySchoolBucks makes reconciliation seamless, with access to reports for all in-person and online payments in one place.
“I love going out to our schools and explaining that MySchoolBucks can be whatever you want it to be.”
With its ease-of-use design, anyone from staff to volunteers can easily accept payments, and all credit and debit card information is protected with end-to-end encryption using Heartland Secure™.
“I love going out to our schools and explaining that MySchoolBucks can be whatever you want it to be,” Lehman says.
After an initial rollout to a few schools at the start of the current school year, 25 to 30 schools and some central office departments now use MySchoolBucks.
“Ideally, I would love to see it, in some capacity, at all of our schools and central office departments,” Lehman says.
Saving time, money and resources
The district can cater to more parents, staff, students and community members by offering MySchoolBucks as a payment method.
“It’s been a very seamless process, which saved our district so much time, money and resources,” Lehman says. “It’s gone beyond our expectations in the first year. We are excited to continue expanding it.”
One district high school is using MySchoolBucks for advanced theater ticket sales, and Lehman says she recently went to another district high school to teach students how to use it because they were going to be in charge of a campus café after school.
“The students were excited to learn about it because in a survey of potential patrons, 70% wanted an option to pay with credit or debit cards,” Lehman says.
Expanding payment options through automation and paperless solutions
Larger districts such as Jefferson County in Kentucky struggle with cash and check payments due to having more data to process with limited resources. What unique challenges do smaller districts face?
The challenges are universal, no matter the size of school districts. They all look at how more can be done with fewer resources, and how efficiencies can be gained in specific areas such as collecting and processing payments, and making deposits and reconciliations. The ability to automate those processes helps any district limited by time constraints or lack of personnel. Administrators and teachers do not have time to chase down the payments for a field trip. Educators are instructors, not collection agents.
Why are K-12 leaders still hesitant to expand beyond paper despite these challenges?
Process changes are hard, depending on the scale and number of moving parts. Our invoicing feature eliminates parent mailings or sending paper home with students since invoices go straight to parents’ email addresses. The feature includes due date and reminder functions, so emails generate automatically and are sent to people who have not paid fees. We rely on these paperless triggers in other areas of life.
“We work with schools and districts to create flexible options for growth that ultimately provide convenience and make their jobs easier.”
What are the pros of only accepting credit card payments?
It is simply easier for parents and students to make payments. We are aware of how transactions have shifted toward more credit card payments as fewer people carry cash or checks. From a business operations perspective, it also improves reporting, with more of a digital trail for visibility and accountability. Payments are made, they’re checked against the bank account and they’re reconciled. It is more efficient.
What steps should schools and districts take to simplify the process of expanding their payment options?
Schools and districts should make a wish list about what currently works for them and where they would like to see process improvement. They must also find a technology partner who provides several options that meet immediate needs and expands with them as they evolve and change. Partners need to be with schools and districts every step of the way from technology and service perspectives, and even from a resource perspective after they begin to implement changes. We think of ourselves as being a partner that accommodates those needs. We work with schools and districts to create flexible options for growth that ultimately provide convenience and make their jobs easier. That convenience extends to parents because the easier it is for parents, the easier it is going to be for schools and districts.
For more information, please visit myschoolbucks.com