The 2019 NACUBO Student Financial Services Benchmarking Report has been released, with findings based on survey responses from 406 U.S. colleges and universities. This year's report provides information on student financial services (SFS) operations during FY18 (July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, for most schools).
The data show that student payments and institutions’ credit balance refunds continue to move away from manual processing toward electronic options. In FY18, institutions received 51.7 percent of student payments via the internet and 31.2 percent manually, which includes students mailing paper checks to the SFS office, coming in to the office to make a credit card payment, or making any other payment that might require significant manual processing. When considering student payment methods, student use of paper checks has declined by 5.8 percentage points, from 31.3 percent in FY14 to 25.5 percent in FY18. At the same time, student use of web checks or e-checks has increased from 31.7 percent in FY14 to 40.5 percent in FY18.
When institutions must reimburse students because payments exceed institutional charges, they are also turning toward electronic methods. Between FY14 and FY18, institutional use of electronic direct deposits for credit balance refunds increased from 43 percent to 53.2 percent. The move toward electronic methods may save institutional funds and staff resources.
The report also demonstrates that the percentage of students with unpaid balances has increased slightly, with the proportion of cumulative unpaid balances to total currently enrolled students rising from 32.9 percent at the end of FY17 to 34.2 percent at the end of FY18. Despite more than a third of students having unpaid balances on their accounts, only about 3.4 percent of the total dollar amount invoiced in FY18 was outstanding at the end of the fiscal year. In addition, the share of students whose accounts are placed into collections has also remained relatively consistent over the last five years, hovering between 5 and 6 percent.
SFS offices had an average of slightly more than 10 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees in FY18, a statistic that has seen a very slight decline over the last five years. The number of FTE students per FTE SFS staff member increased over the same period, from 802 FTE students per FTE SFS staff in FY14 to 831 in FY18. In addition, over the last five years, the SFS operating budget per FTE student has decreased by 4.1 percent on average when adjusted for inflation, from $154 per FTE student in FY14 to $148 in FY18.
The 2019 NACUBO 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. Infographics are also available.