Starting with the fall 2021 semester, the university will implement improvements to tuition billing and payments that will make it easier for students to pay their tuition and to receive financial aid and scholarships. These process improvements are the result of collaboration that began in November 2019 with the support of Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Darrell Bazzell and then-provost Maurie McInnis.
Accounting and Financial Management Executive Director Lori Peterson and Senior Vice Provost for Enrollment Management and Student Success Rachelle Hernandez formed the Tuition Payment and Funds Flow (TPFF) Committee led by Carolyn Connerat, associate vice provost for Enrollment Management and Student Success. The committee included students, faculty and staff from diverse units and organizations such as the Vice President for Student Affairs, Student Accounts Receivable, Texas One Stop, University Housing and Dining, and the Senate of College Councils. Other departments and organizations were represented as well. Members met to identify ways to streamline processes while reducing stress and removing barriers for students as they pay their tuition.
“The various perspectives were invaluable,” Peterson said. “Including students among the variety of committee members was important for their input and buy-in.”
Committee member Hodges Mitchell, director of Student Accounts Receivable, emphasized the commitment to students shown by leaders and members in developing and adopting the committee’s final recommendations.
“The collaboration among campus partners and stakeholders speaks volumes about the level of commitment from university leadership to enhance the student experience as it plays a major role in student success,” Mitchell said. “Everything that we do is with the students’ best interest in mind. The work the TPFF Committee has done helps to improve our internal services while providing students with the opportunity to ‘Change the World.’”
Among the recommendations are that the first tuition due date for undergraduate students will be the same day on which they start receiving financial aid so that they have access to the aid to pay their tuition bill. The minimum tuition payment on the first of three due dates will now be a flat rate that is 30 percent less than the current rate, and the next two payment amounts are flexible. In addition, tuition webpages have been redesigned.
Director of Texas One Stop for Enrollment Services and TPFF Committee member Jennifer Love said she was impressed by the representation and dedication from all of those who contributed in some way to making and implementing the recommendations.
“By having campus participation in the discussions and improvements to streamline and remove barriers for students, the team was able to come up with real, cross-functional solutions that allow many students to self-serve online,” Love said. “Increased capacity to self-serve online allows Texas One Stop professionals to answer the challenging questions and support students one-on-one when needed.”
Love said she is also excited about the new threshold for installment plan amounts, a change that is expected to reduce the number of students who are dropped for non-payment before school begins.
Love noted that it can be difficult for a student to re-register and get back into the courses they need to graduate.
Peterson pointed out that the work of the committee represented several FAS core values.
“Teamwork across the committee was a major one,” Peterson said. “Members came together for a common cause and achieved a great outcome.”
Peterson also noted the diversity of the committee, with students, faculty and staff bringing multiple perspectives to discussions. Together, members achieved innovative outcomes that not only supported the well-being of students but also helped ensure stewardship of university resources.
“The positive impact of process improvements to tuition billing and payments on the student experience will not negatively impact university business, nor will the positive impact on university business have a negative effect on the student experience,” Peterson said.
Love noted that she looks forward to the Phase II plans for TPFF, which include discussions around graduate and professional student support, along with spring and summer planning.
“The success of this committee will continue to be felt across campus and will be used as a model for how cross-functional collaboration projects can be successful in achieving outcomes that support students’ success and staff satisfaction,” Love said.
Student appreciation of the tuition billing and payment improvements has already been indicated by the March 25, 2021, Senate of College Councils’ resolution honoring Connerat and the TPFF Committee for supporting student success and improving the tuition payment process by placing students at the center.