This article explains the differences between Debtor Management and Debt Collection and how they are positive tools for schools to use when following up parents who have not paid their accounts. Additionally, the correct use of such tools will achieve positive changes to the payment culture of the schools community.
Whether at the beginning of the year or immersed into Term 4, now is a good time to engage our services to ensure that as many families as possible have paid their accounts before year end!
Cole Success Story: Cole School Experts took over Debtor Management for a school in July with outstanding debt of $11.2m and by the end of this year their debt will be well under $1m, an outstanding success!
Schools can be reluctant to actively and persistently chase outstanding debts from parents, whether they are tuition fees, boarding fees, camps or excursion fees. The reasons range from a lack of resources to concerns of losing student enrolments.
Debtor Management is the process of communicating with those parents via phone, SMS, email or letter in order to have the parents agree to payment.
The approach to the parents is polite, consistent and persistent. It should be conducted with respect and professionalism and there are no circumstances where either party should become defensive or belligerent.
The process should include the recording within the schools financial software the details of the date, time and outcome of the conversation and / or correspondence with each parent and any agreement reached.
Where possible, all emails and letters should be electronically attached to the families account within the software for future reference.
Debt Collection has a reputation for being threatening and confrontational where the Debt Collector is unlikely to treat the parents with respect. This is far from the reality. In fact, the process of debt collection is a formal process that has far more legal guidelines around the control of the process than does credit management.
A school should assess the option of engaging a Debt Collection service when parents have stopped communicating with the school in regards to their debts.
Schools that successfully focus on Debtor Management significantly reduce the need to engage Debt Collection.
Implementing strong and clear Policies in relation to outstanding fees sets the tone of expectation the school has of parents. The schools Board, Management and Business Manager must all agree and support the Policies as one to ensure parents cannot identify and manipulate any weak point.
Qualified and willing resources must be allocated to the Debtor Management process to ensure on-going successful management of the collection of outstanding fees. Whilst it may be a part time resource, this is a task that cannot be successfully carried out on an ad-hoc basis.
The schools cash position will improve. Over time parents will accept the schools expectation that where they can pay, they will be required to pay their fees on time or via an agreed and signed written payment plan that is acceptable to the school.
Ultimately there will be a reduction in discussions with parents who may miss a due date as the majority of these parents will respond to the first request, not require multiple communications in order to comply.
External Debtor Managers and Debt Collectors have the advantage of not being part of the school community and can be fair but firm when parents present excuses for non-payment. The external Debtor Manager / Debt Collector can be used with parents who the school no longer wish to negotiate with.
Cole are School Experts in Debtor Management & Debt Collection and we are here to help! Contact us to discuss how we can significantly reduce your debt before the end of the year!