Adieu to bad debts from parents who can’t pay

SPONSORED: Bursars have been bowled over by Premium Credit’s latest offering, writes Simon Fry

A recent newspaper article commented on how school fees have, effectively, tripled since 1980, with fees as a percentage of disposable income rising from one-fifth to one-half. To make payment of school fees during this period easier for parents, Premium Credit introduced School Fee Plan in 1996.

“Hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of families have used School Fee Plan to pay their school fees monthly,” said Thea Ross, Head of Education services at School Fee Plan. “However, to ensure our products remain relevant in a fluid economic environment, in 2016 we commissioned independent research with a range of schools across the sector, to establish what else we could do for them.”

The feedback received saw three main criteria come to light, and along with “protection from finance-related regulation” and a wish for “reduced administration”, more and more schools asked of School Fee Plan to “protect me from debt”.

The result was a scheme reducing administration and removing risk and the awkwardness brought by pursuing outstanding payments. “In response to this, a new service was created,” said Thea. “Taking the credit risk away from schools if parents cannot pay their child’s fees, this is called Non-Recourse. This brings with it the same benefits of School Fee Plan’s standard service, such as full fees and extras paid at the start of term and the management and collection of all defaults and regulatory compliance but has the added benefit of schools being protected from bad debt from parents who can’t repay their term fees due to insufficient funds.”

A successful soft product launch in May 2017 saw 23 new schools joining School Fee Plan for the 2017/18 academic year, with a further 20 new schools already signed up to launch in 2018 in time for the summer billing run. With demand established, the service is being rolled out nationally.

Pangbourne College is one of the first schools taking Non-Recourse. Bursar Neil Walne said, “I chose the SFP non-recourse scheme because of the flexibility and ease of use for both the school and most importantly, our parents. The removal of any necessary action by ourselves as a result of late or non-payment of fees is a significant attraction of the scheme.”

Such benefits are echoed by Steve Taylor, Premium Credit Sales Director. “The big issue for many schools is default management, and if a parent doesn’t pay it’s a really uncomfortable conversation for a bursar to have with them. School Fee Plan works by us paying the school a term’s fees upfront and the parent paying us monthly. With Non-Recourse, if parents are unable to pay us we do not pass that issue back to the school but contact the parent, searching to find a solution for all parties wherever possible, but if necessary we begin the process you would normally go through with any finance company if you owe them money for something.

“This new service complements our existing product suite which has served the school market well for over 20 years. Non-Recourse has been developed specifically for those schools for whom protection from bad debt is a prime driver and early adopters of the product are saying it does exactly what it said it would do,” said Steve.
Full transparency means the school is kept informed of any repayment difficulties without having to discuss with the parent via telephone or in person.

Non-Recourse clearly addresses a very real need for bursars and its immediate popularity is to be expected. Its arrival is proof of School Fee Plan’s ongoing readiness to ask schools what they need from a fees facility and then to deliver the solution.

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