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2016 NACUBO Student Financial Services Benchmarking Report Released

October 17, 2016

The 2016 Student Financial Services Benchmarking Report is now available online and provides information on student financial services (SFS) operations at American higher education institutions during FY15 (July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015, for most schools).

The report is based on survey responses received from 284 institutions—far fewer than the 438 colleges and universities that responded last year. Due to the lower number of responses, year-to-year comparisons must be interpreted with caution.

The data show that the 30.9 percent of students had an unpaid balance (any tuition, fees, or other charges that remained unpaid by students as of the end of the fiscal year) at the end of FY15, roughly equal to the share from FY14 (30.8 percent). The dollar amount of unpaid balances as a percentage of the total amount invoiced, however, increased to 4.7 percent from 3.3 percent. The share of student accounts placed into collections during FY15 as a percentage of total number of students enrolled decreased slightly from 5.7 percent in FY14 to 5.5 percent in FY15. Consistent with previous years, community colleges had the highest percentage of student accounts placed into collections, reaching a new high of 10.1 percent in FY15. Small institutions, on the other hand, reported the lowest rate of student accounts in collections (2.8 percent).

This year’s SFS report also demonstrates the continuing trend of schools collecting student payments via electronic means rather than paper checks. As the figure below shows, payments received via paper checks fell from about 40 percent of total payment volume in FY11 to 28 percent in FY15. In-person credit card payments also declined noticeably—from 10 percent to 6 percent—during this timespan. In contrast, 35 percent of FY15 dollars were received via web check or e-check, compared with 21 percent in FY11, and about 21 percent of FY15 payments were received via web-based credit card transactions. Processing paper checks and in-person credit card payments are more labor intensive for institutions; the move to electronic payment channels may have saved institutions funds and staff resources.

SFS offices had an average staff size of 12.1 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees in FY15, an increase from the overall average size of 10.3 reported in FY14. There was also an increase in the average number of FTE students per FTE SFS staff member (836 in FY15 versus 802 in FY14). However, there is a very large variance around the averages for both of these statistics, particularly for respondents from community colleges. This wide variation makes interpreting these results difficult.

The 2016  Student Financial Services Benchmarking Report is available for purchase on the NACUBO website. Staff at participating institutions can access a complimentary copy of the report through NACUBO's Online Research portal.


Ken Redd
Director, Research and Policy Analysis