At brightwheel, we regularly hear from childcare and preschool directors that managing tuition is one of the most time-consuming (and frustrating) parts of the job. As a director, your days are busy enough without having to generate tuition bills, track down payments, administer late fees, and stay organized every step of the way. It can also be emotionally draining to address payment concerns with parents, as money is oftentimes a sensitive topic for families. Simply put, handling tuition is stressful work!
To make your job a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of the most common tuition mistakes that childcare and preschool businesses make, and how to avoid them. Follow these tips to make your childcare program’s tuition process as organized and painless as possible!
Mistake 1: Not enforcing your tuition policies early on
Don’t be afraid to set a strict tuition policy and stick to it from the very beginning. Once new students enroll, outline your policies clearly during orientation and in your parent handbook, and make the consequences for late or missed payments abundantly clear.
For example, you should be upfront about:
- Your grace period
- What happens when parents miss a payment
- What happens when parents want to change their child’s schedule mid-school year
If a problem with a payment occurs, it can be tempting to give parents leeway, especially if they’ve had a long relationship with your center. But in reality, inconsistency makes things messier. If other families discover that you don’t always enforce your policies, they might expect you to be lenient with them if they don’t comply. Some parents might even feel like you’re “playing favorites” if you don’t apply your policies the same way for each family.
If you’re the type of person who feels uncomfortable with conflict, remind yourself that enforcing your policies consistently is the fairest thing you can do for yourself, your staff, and all the families at your center. Sticking with your tuition policy from the very start is one of the best ways to protect your relationships with families and ensure fair treatment across the board!
Mistake 2: Collecting payments manually
If you’re still collecting payments from your families by hand, you can save yourself a lot of time and stress by adopting online billing instead. By using a digital solution like brightwheel billing, you’ll be able to streamline many of your most common and arduous billing tasks, such as creating customized billing plans for all your students, sending out billing statements, and pulling all the reports you need to understand your business’s finances. You’ll eliminate the need to rush to the bank during open hours, too!
Digital payments also make the billing process quicker and easier for busy parents. With online billing, parents are able to make payments from anywhere, as soon as they receive their bill. Parents will also have the option to pay with their credit card, debit card, or directly from their bank account, and they’ll have the convenience of being able to view and pay their invoices at any time.
During COVID-19, online billing also makes it safer and easier for parents to continue making payments. Digital payments eliminate the need to handle cash and checks by hand, minimizing the spread of germs between staff and families at your center. If your center is charging partial tuition or hold fees during COVID-19, tools like brightwheel billing also make it easy to add one-time or recurring discounts to a parent’s bill.
If you’d like to see how brightwheel billing can transform the tuition process at your childcare center or preschool, request a demo today!
Mistake 3: Not using autopay
If you’re like most centers, you may have a handful of families who seem to always make late payments. Keeping track of late payment reminders can be incredibly time-consuming (and uncomfortable to bring up with families, too). One of the easiest ways to ensure payments are made on time is to require families to enroll in automatic payments by using a tool like brightwheel billing. Autopay guarantees that on the statement due date, the parent contact’s payment method will be charged automatically for the full balance due, including any past due balance. When you know that every tuition bill will automatically be paid on time, you’ll be able to focus more on growing your business instead of chasing down outstanding payments.
Autopay isn’t just convenient for your business needs—parents will also appreciate the ability to “set it and forget it.” With automatic payments, they’ll never have to worry about missing a tuition payment again, giving them greater peace of mind and a smoother experience with your program!
Mistake 4: Not charging for distance learning or holding student spots
Even though vaccine distribution is well underway, many childcare centers and preschools are still navigating the impacts of COVID-19 and decreased enrollment. If your center is offering distance learning or holding spots for students who haven’t returned to your program yet, remember that you can (and absolutely should) charge partial tuition or a hold fee.
Remember to clearly communicate the value your program is providing by offering virtual learning or reserving a spot for a student. Most of the families at your center will completely understand your decision to continue charging tuition or a set fee. With an online billing tool like brightwheel, you can also easily add discounts to recurring or one-time charges as a percentage or a dollar amount, ensuring a smooth payment process for families even during less-than-normal circumstances.
Mistake 5: Avoiding communication when payment problems come up
While you should be fair and consistent in enforcing your payment policies, the families in your program may run into unexpected financial circumstances that affect their ability to pay their tuition bills on time. When this happens, it’s best to work with families to identify and solve problems before they snowball. If you notice a recurring problem collecting payments from a family, initiate open communication early on.
Arrange a time to speak to the parent face-to-face. Sometimes, speaking with parents directly is the best way to raise concerns and have honest, constructive dialogue. Although the conversation may feel uncomfortable, it’s a necessary one that will help your center continue providing excellent care for every child. For more tips on best communication practices with families, check out our blog post, How to Handle Difficult Conversations with Parents at Your Childcare Center or Preschool.
Establishing an efficient online billing system for your center is one of the best ways to ensure the most seamless, painless tuition process for both you and the parents in your program. If you’re interested in joining thousands of other childcare and preschool directors who use brightwheel to successfully manage their billing processes, book a demo with us today!
Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at www.mybrightwheel.com.