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SIS interfaces – a brief technical overviewFebruary 15, 2021
Bursar Billing? The origins of the name
We frequently get asked if our services enable billing to Student Accounts including Financial Aid. It does, of course. We call it Bursar Billing. It’s an important and valuable service and helps students get their course materials and supplies ahead of the start of classes.
WPS started early on in 2016 by supporting various payment types including Financial Aid. During that time, NACS (National Association of College Stores) became our partners and used the term “Bursar Billing”.
We liked it and adopted it too. Imitation…flattery and all that.
NACS also put out some terrific research which said:
“According to a recent study of 235 participating stores, only about half of independent college stores have such access to their bursar’s account, which can be a significant liability when it comes to accommodating student needs.
According to respondents, convenience for the student to easily acquire necessary course materials was the top benefit of access, followed by the student being able to acquire books without having to wait for financial aid. Also noted was convenience for parents paying for students from out of town, as well as an increase in preparedness on the first day of class.
What’s more, 66% of stores indicated they saw an increase in sales when they implemented access to bursar billing.
Only half of stores are taking advantage
The survey revealed that just about half (49%) of stores had some access to their bursar’s accounts. Levels of access and usage vary by school, but 95% of stores allowed students to charge their course materials directly to their bursar accounts through the bookstore.
Eighty-six percent of stores allow students to charge school supplies, and 52% general merchandise. And 75% of stores use this access to enforce repayment and returns of rentals by blocking transcripts and future enrollments.”
– NACS research, 2017
That important research said that applying charges to Financial Aid was one important piece of the service. It created tremendous value for students but also stores. It matches our experiences.
Today’s Bursar Billing does much more
However, as we dug deeper, we learned there was more to it. First, we learned that on many campuses, other award types were also important to students, the campus store, and the Bursar.
That realization started our path of listening to customers and understanding what they wanted to do – and supplying that service for them. Pretty soon, colleges were using our system to solve lots of problems, many of which included FA, but often they had other needs too.
So, while it’s perhaps an over-used analogy, we liken our service to a modern smartphone. It will absolutely make crystal clear calls (Financial Aid,) but can do many other important things too.
For example, since Watchman started its journey to make campus payments easier, we can now:
- Support more student information systems – Oracle PeopleSoft, Ellucian Colleague, Banner, and PowerCampus – covering more than 80% of US colleges
- Support other important sources of student aid seamlessly, like VA, Athletic, Voc Rehab, and other scholarships, that are managed outside the SIS via Sponsored Accounts Manager (SAM)
- Provide a daily automated reconciliation of your charges at the POS to the SIS and Sponsored Accounts Manager (SAM) to catch any discrepancies as early as possible
- Support EBT payments to combat food insecurity issues
- Push daily or summary reports, or even make the ongoing performance display on a dashboard
- Handle detailed business rules for purchases at the line item level and check each item for eligibility and taxes
- Work with Inclusive Access providers to fully customize & automate the billing process
- Incorporate campus card payments types – like CBORD and Transact – into the transaction workflow so that students can access more sources of funds
Like the smartphone, which does so much more than just making phone calls, Watchman’s STEP platform does much more than just Financial Aid. To call it “a phone” is not really a good way to describe a smartphone anymore just like describing our services as only “FA Billing” or the like. We humbly argue that versatility makes our version of Bursar Billing best in class.
STEP handles any challenge a campus might throw at us. Bursar Billing and Financial Aid may be part of that. Or not. Many of our customers start with other services and tag FA on later.
Get in touch with us or take a look at our newly-launched Resource Center for more info.