Dynamic fees management could elevate TAFE financial control
Fees management can be a significant challenge for TAFE finance leaders. Despite a desire for more centralised control over an institution’s financial position, finance teams are often left with the unenviable job of tracking significant volumes of transactions across multiple systems.
The TAFE fees management challenge
There’s a few considerations relevant to the typical TAFE fees management challenge.
As complex, multi-cohort institutions, TAFEs see just about any fee scenario imaginable, from fee-for-service, fully or partly funded, or employer paid, through to scholarships and concessions (to name a few). This can make managing a course price list or fees inventory a difficult task.
TAFE teaching departments doing what they do best often want to operate with a level of autonomy. When it comes to a new course, or updating existing pricing, are departments ‘going rogue’ on finance? Or are teaching departments aware of pricing version updates from finance?
Any fees published by a TAFE need to be accurate and current to ensure they meet compliance obligations. Wherever TAFEs are pushing fees into a public facing environment, they need to reflect what a student will pay, even when this is expressed as a minimum or maximum fee.
Financial leaders need to forecast accurately. While expected total sales minus historical student attrition averages can guide expectations, manual processes like refunds or fee waivers managed via delegated authorities can hinder oversight if there’s no ‘single source of truth’.
Most of the administration of fees comes from payment processing. With students still dropping into the front desk to pay with cash, systems can often be out of sync, and there can be constant manual reconciliation. This places huge layers of admin on TAFE finance teams.
Finance teams can find it very difficult to do a very good job of fee management. Though technology systems are there to support, often fee management UX can be too complex to easily adopt, leading to difficulties in using a system to facilitate better processes.
Time to get 'smarter' with fees management?
The answer could be for TAFEs to centralise and automate the fees management process.
ReadyTech recently developed a new solution for TAFE fees management, called Smart Fees. Designed with finance in mind, it allows the pre-configuration of a fee library, so amounts can be dynamically calculated and applied at the point of sale or turned into invoices.
Introducing Smart Fees
Smart Fees consolidates all fees, whether they be course fees, tuition or other fees, into a single place - a fee library - that serves the rest of a TAFE’s fee management processes. Highly flexible and configurable, rules- driven, and defined by admin users – typically a finance person – it centralises control upstream in finance, and solidifies strong workflows for downstream users.
It enables fees to be dynamically calculated at the point of sale, based on the attributes of the student and enrolment type. For example, based on the student profile, the platform will recognise if a concession or scholarship is available. So based on what a TAFE knows about a student, the Smart Fees library will do the hard work of generating an accurate fee.
A few highlights of the Smart Fees feature include:
- Smart Fees offers a range of options like overrides and modifiers (rules), links to products (such as units, subjects and programs) and the ability to use multipliers (like load or hours) as an input in the system. These effectively facilitate dynamic pricing by finance where tuition (and other fees) can be personalised to each individual applicant or student.
- Dynamic recalculation of fees is possible for enrolments in-flight. This can be handy if there are price increases for units (of study) not commenced or a change in concession status. The system serves up recommended adjustments for approval and is supported by a permission framework to ensure decisions align with the appropriate authority.
- The centralisation of the fee library makes it possible to better manage things like price roll over and price versioning from the top. Financial administration has also been improved with extensions to the ‘holds’ (sanctions) functionality that allows student (or sponsor) accounts to be effectively locked in response to issues arising from fees.
- JR Plus is optimised to facilitate online payments with multiple ‘Pay Now’ options exposed across the system. This redirects payees to one of the multiple supported payment gateway integrations that can support modes of payment like instalments or buy now, pay later options. In addition, fees can also be parsed to external public-facing applications.
- Smart Fees drives invoicing and stores attributes like ledger codes and tax treatment, as well as the ‘trigger’ - when the invoice should raise and how often (if required). Each template is configured for line items and can combine fees into a consolidated invoice. Multiple debtors can be invoiced, with the option to ‘split’ the debt across parties.
- Smart Fees improves the management of refunds, scholarships and waivers, with new user-verified workflow patterns to better support in-house admin and public-facing service interactions to drive higher levels of accuracy and customer satisfaction in what can be challenging situations. These improve what have often been low-level, manual solutions.
A dynamic future for TAFE fees management?
The flexibility of Smart Fees gives TAFE finance users a massive amount of control, streamlining fee structures to speed up their financial processes. But what of the future potential?
Smart Fees has some interesting applications. For example, it enables zero-fee admissions, and has been designed with education subscription models in mind. This means that, should they wish, TAFEs could facilitate knowledge-as-a-service models to support lifelong learning.
In the fast-changing world of learning and work, this has great future potential for TAFE.
However its primary contribution may be to meet the desire for centralisation and control. Available through the JR Plus centralised Finance Hub, finance teams are able to see fees alongside all their financial activity in one place, gaining a single point of entry inside the system to query any or all financial information they need. From quotes through to payments, credits and even the tracing of amortisation and draw down, finance gains a complete overview of their current financial position, improving finance governance.
Does this make TAFE fees management simpler for finance? We believe it does?
Find out more about how ReadyTech supports TAFEs with next generation student management technology. Click here.