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New Survey Report Analyzes SFS Data

October 20, 2009

Nearly one in three students (30.6%) in public, two-year institutions had an unpaid balance at the end of FY08, compared to one in four students (24.3%) attending public, four-year institutions; at private, four-year institutions, 22.5 percent of students carried an end-of-year balance. These and many other findings are detailed in the 2008 Student Financial Services (SFS) Benchmarking Initiative survey report.

The report, just released by NACUBO, analyzes FY08 data provided by 148 responding institutions in areas such as unpaid balances and collections, student payments, student refunds, outstanding account receivables, third-party sponsored accounts, and financial services staff training. It compares institutional responses across numerous categories, including affiliation, sector, constituent group, Carnegie class, and enrollment size.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • The percentage of student accounts placed in collections during FY08 for public institutions (7.5%) almost doubles that of private institutions (4%).
  • Overall, almost all student payments are received either through manual channels (63.5%) or through the Internet (23.8%). The use of the Internet as a payment channel is higher for public four-year institutions (37.3%) and lower for private four-year institutions (15.9%).
  • Smaller institutions (in terms of enrollment) tend to receive more student payments through manual channels rather than online. Institutions with enrollments under 4,000 received 78 percent of payments through manual channels, compared to 13.4 percent received through the Internet. On the other hand, larger institutions received 39 percent of student payments through manual channels and roughly 44 percent thorough the Internet.
  • Most students make their payments with checks (52%) or credit cards (30%).
  • The preferred disbursement method for paying credit balances to students is paper checks (82%). However, public four-year institutions (31%) tend to use electronic direct deposits more than other types of institutions.
  • Compared to private institutions, public institutions have more third-party sponsored student billing instances per FTE staff processing these third-party billings. While private institutions report an average of 681 instances per FTE staff, public two-year and public four-year institutions report an average of 1,291 and 1,817 instances per FTE staff, respectively.
  • Overall, institutions that responded to the survey offer an average of 14 hours of training per SFS staff. Doctoral/research universities offer the highest number of hours (17) and Masters the lowest (11). Also, institutions with larger enrollments tend to keep their SFS staff longer.
  • The responding institutions report that the average number of FTE students per FTE SFS staff is 840. The average amount of SFS operating budget per FTE student is $176. Public four-year institutions, however, have a higher-than-average number of students per SFS staff (1,491) and a lower-than-average amount of SFS budget per student ($86).

In addition to the report, NACUBO will release the SFS Benchmarking Tool this fall. The interactive tool will provide survey respondents with the opportunity to compare their data with selected groups of peer institutions.