Goodbye Cash and Checks—Here's How to Choose a Safe and Effective School...

School Infrastructure

Goodbye Cash and Checks—Here's How to Choose a Safe and Effective School Payment System

from LearnLaunch

By Ellie Miller     May 22, 2018

Goodbye Cash and Checks—Here's How to Choose a Safe and Effective School Payment System

School expenses, such and lunch and field trips, are big business in United States. Paying for these expenses is a huge logistical headache for most parents. Every year families across the country hand over more than $41 billion to their children’s schools to cover everything from after-school care to athletics, field trips to school fundraising, and more. Incredibly, the vast majority of these payments are made in-person, with cash or personal checks. Digital tools, when used, are often in the form of telephone payments—an outdated form of processing technology in today’s plugged-in world.

The archaic payment systems that most small school districts rely on are problematic for a number of reasons:

  • They are inefficient for both parent and administrators. Sending young children to school with money isn’t an ideal option for most parents. Some find that the only safe alternative is to make payments at the school front office for every field trip, club or activity. For the administration, in-person payments mean time wasted handling cash, processing receipts and shuttling deposits to the bank.
  • There is a serious security concern when handling these expenses. There are many cases of school embezzlement related to cash payments for K-12 student fees, especially those that travel to school with a child.
  • Many payment systems are unaffordable to low-income and rural schools. Those that provide digital school payment solutions tack on heavy interest fees when serving small schools with traditionally underfunded budgets.

Increasing family engagement in school activities and new opportunities for fundraising demonstrate a growing need for better payment options nationwide. Clearly, there is a need for a zero cost, easy to integrate and commitment-free payment solution that is simultaneously effective, affordable, and fun to use. According to Arc Capital Development Corp., a private equity and advisory firm that invests in education and special needs markets, the need is real: the 11,683 small districts that enroll less than 5,000 students can not afford electronic payment processing for all activity fees. Schools need to prioritize time and resources for educating students, not processing payments.

Image credit: Skookii

There are a number of companies already operating in this space, and many promise faster, easier solutions for school administrators and parents alike. Most of the companies are designed for larger districts, charging up to $2 for every transaction and requiring lengthy service contracts. These products are better designed for larger districts rather than smaller, low-funded ones.

To meet the needs of all districts, even those with limited budgets, a parent-driven school payment system needs to offer a handful of key qualities. When looking for a new payment system, district leaders should keep these six things in mind:

  • Affordability: It should not have binding software or merchant contracts, hidden fees, or cost an arm and a leg to collect payments.
  • Deposits: It should ensure that schools get paid fast without the need to wait up to seven business days or manually transfer funds to the district’s bank account.
  • Simplicity: It should be easy to onboard school staff and not require someone with an IT background to navigate the solution.
  • Reporting: It should have real-time and robust transactional reports that school business managers can export to Excel.
  • Point-of-sale: It should have a card reader, similar to Square, that feeds into the same system and allows in-person payments for athletic or fundraising events.
  • Fun to use: It goes without saying that in the age of Snapchat, Vines, and Instagram, solutions should have similar user experiences to the apps most parents use everyday.

Skookii is a school payment system that is ideal for smaller rural and charter districts and is a great option for any school that is seeking to upgrade its payment system in an affordable, easy and safe way. It operates as a freemium service—available for free to all schools and parent-users; the invoicing and reporting tools help school administrators better manage all aspects of their business. There are additional features in the development pipeline, including card readers, customizable sub-domains, enhanced-interactivity pay buttons, and more.

Teresa Newcomb, bookkeeper at Coastal Leadership Academy charter school in Myrtle Beach, SC, says, “previously we accepted payments for some items through PayPal.” With Skookii, she explains, “we found that we could upload different items with ease, adjust prices at a moment's notice, and all payments were automatically transferred to the bank. It was very easy to work with and reporting feature allowed us to do monthly reconciliations faster. It greatly helps with annual school audits as well.”

Source: Skookii

The transition to cutting edge payment services will result in more than just financial improvements; it can free up time and resources to better support students directly, particularly those that are attending districts that are underserved and understaffed. The shift to modern payment solutions is revolutionizing they ways schools do business, enabling focus on what’s most important: educating their students.


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