The evolution of higher ed business office cashiers leads to student account advisor solution

by Jeremy

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As higher ed business offices moved more student payment services online, cashiers began serving more as student advisors rather than traditional tellers. Students now visit college and university offices for help to resolve a range of issues that prevent them from making payments, such as a separate outstanding or overdue bills or a missing data within the student information system that needs to be entered. This requires staffers to have in-depth knowledge of student accounts and access to numerous programs and systems simultaneously, which means they must keep multiple screens open to various platforms such as their student information and finance systems, accounting and academic records and more. Having to toggle between various dashboards can increase student wait times, whether in person or virtual and sometimes staffers don’t have the access needed to the information or system, which can negatively impact customer service and, in turn, satisfaction and retention.

According to a recent study by Stanford, most attrition is not caused by academic failure. Only 15 percent of those students that leave are due to poor academic performance. Per the same study, students who drop out can cost a college or university upwards of $40,000 per student. Additionally, single cohorts of students who drop out before graduation have lost $3.8 billion in lifetime income, according to a Schneider and Yin report referenced by the Delta Cost Project.

To keep students on track, institutions must take note and measure those experiences that can impact retention. Having all of the student account data in one robust, easy to use, platform so staff can engage in efficient and effective conversations with students in real time is one solution worth exploring. Aware of this need, TouchNet renovated and expanded its Business Office and Cashiering solutions by creating Student Account Advisor, a dashboard solution that provides staff with the flexibility and one-stop access to the data required to support students.

Improving communications

Student Account Advisor pulls student information from multiple sources so business office staffers can answer questions and resolve issues. Additionally, students who want to access their financial information sometimes need to provide certain details, and if they don’t have it immediately on hand, Student Account Advisor allows employees to quickly look up and then input that information for them. Employees can access balances, holds, payment plans, financial aid information, academic records, consent forms and more.

To help aid discussions, Advisor features a “student view” function called Emulate Student that allows staffers to see exactly what the student sees when accessing Student Account Advisor from their account. This empowers the campus employee to help guide and the student to learn how to effectively use the dashboard and improve the experience for all.

Student Account Advisor also provides employees with the necessary tools to help communicate issues or frequently asked questions to improve the overall experience for other students. When institutions receive common questions from numerous students, these queries can be added as a Student Account Advisor message template, allowing employees to easily respond to students with the same questions in the future. For example, students may have come to discuss their payment plans, but if many of their peers have been asking questions about financial aid, then the campus employee can first communicate this and then provide the answer to the students they’re working with so they don’t have the same issue as their classmates.

Tailoring for specific needs

Extending the support across campus, administrators can tailor access to Student Account Advisor information for departments and organizations based on specific needs. For example, the bursar’s office at a specific institution might need access to cashiering information but be restricted from certain financial aid records. Student Account Advisor helps manage permissions to make all this happen.

Likewise, different roles can be assigned to specific people within the same office or department. For instance, some colleges and universities have front-line student workers answer frequently asked questions, freeing up full-time employees to focus on more crucial matters and on students needing to make payments. In these cases, Student Account Advisor can allow student workers to access student academic information, holds, and balances, while restricting them from accepting payments.

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