Approximately 50.8 million students are enrolled in K-12 public schools nationwide, according to the latest figures from the Department of Education, and as these students pursue their educations, some schools are learning new lessons on how to more effectively manage funds through faster payment solutions. Students often receive their educations in places beyond the classroom, such as on trips to museums, historical locations and concerts. These activities may require parents make payments to schools so their children can participate. School systems often still use paper-based payments like cash and checks despite advancements in digital payment technologies.
Bursari, a transaction processing platform designed for schools and community organizations, is working to modernize antiquated payment practices that educators, administrators, staff and parents must contend with. The firm recently announced that it will use Fiserv’s Digital Payments SDK to enable these parties to make more seamless, digital payments for school-related activities and programs. The new solutions allow parents to make one-time or recurring payments to schools and other organizations through digital channels. Jerry Banks, Bursari’s CEO, recently spoke with PYMNTS about how faster digital payment solutions are preventing educators and parents from having to engage in cumbersome payment processes.
“A school’s primary interest is educating students, and properly so,” he said. “With today’s technology ... Bursari consolidates the payment process so that school resources can be focused on education and not on making sure funds are in place for a school trip or a student’s lunch or team participation. We’re here to help with that mission.”
Reducing steps in school-oriented payments
Banks pointed out that the education space has lagged in terms of payment innovation compared to other markets with outdated payment methods. Typical payment processes often begin with an invoice that is delivered to parents, Banks said, and parents pay the invoices using paper checks or cash, which are physically delivered to schools’ finance offices. Employees then deposit the funds at their institutions’ banks, with the money becoming available several days later.
This process can take as long as 19 to 21 days, from the time an invoice is issued to when funds are made available in schools’ bank accounts. Such payments are also costly, with recent data indicating that each paper check can cost between $4 and $20 to process.
“You’ve got numerous moving parts that are part of the process and it takes multiple days to process these transactions,” he noted.
Bursari is introducing greater efficiencies into how education-related payments are handled by granting all parties access to the platform, enabling payments to be initiated and completed shortly after invoices are issued. Schools can digitally create invoices and use text messages to immediately notify parents, who can then pay using their mobile devices.
“With Bursari, the whole transaction happens instantly,” Banks said.
Keeping school days chaos-free
The platform also stops parents from falling into difficult situations because of late or missed payments. Banks shared an anecdote of parents learning that their child is supposed to be going on a field trip. The child will not be allowed to go on the trip until the school receives payment — a detail the child forgot to share with the parents.
“In the school space, 6:30 in the morning can be chaotic enough as it is,” Banks said. “Then [a child’s] mom or dad finds a crumpled up piece of paper in a backpack [asking] for payment for a field trip. Then what was chaotic turns into a meltdown.”
This discovery could put parents into the tricky position of having to get down to the school with the right amount of cash or a paper check. Banks added that the process can also be burdensome for the teachers who are charged with holding onto payments in their classrooms until they can physically deliver them to schools’ financial offices.
Bursari’s platform spares both parents and teachers from the headaches physical payments cause by enabling parents to make payments from their mobile devices directly to the schools, preventing teachers and administrative staff from having to handle the delivery of cash and checks.
“We’re replacing [the] Ziploc bags and shoeboxes [used to store money] in the classroom,” he said.
Including schools, communities in design
Safety and security are top concerns for school administrators and parents, both of whom want to be assured that the platform can secure sensitive information when transmitting funds. School administrators also want to be able to demonstrate that payments have been spent appropriately, Banks stated.
Bursari addressed these concerns by making sure that schools and community organizations were consulted in its design. The platform has been piloted in roughly 50 school districts nationwide and school officials’ insights have been key to encouraging adoption.
“The difference in the way we’re developing this is [that] it was built with schools and community organizations, not for them,” he said. “It makes all the difference in the world, because, many times, software is developed for some target audience and handed to them. We’re taking a totally different approach.”
This made it easier for school officials to trust the system because they were involved in its early design. The platform includes personalized information for each organization, including school pictures, logos and other unique details. The system can also integrate with schools’ and organizations’ back-end accounting systems to help administrators track spending.
Public schools and community groups have largely fallen behind other markets in implementing digital payment solutions. New digital solutions could put educators, parents, administrators and other officials in a new class of payments, however, that enable them to focus on educating students rather than chasing down and handling physical payments.