Training debtors to pay starts before there’s any debt!
Several years ago we were asked by a small private secondary school to help them with the problem that they were having collecting payment of overdue school fees from some of the parents. It turned out that the problem was twofold;
1. the school was not telling parents when each terms fees were supposed to be paid by
2. if the fees were not paid within a reasonable time, very little real action was being taken (because no procedures had been established) to follow up the parents to chase payment.
We were able to collect the majority of the unpaid school fees by applying the three principles constantly referred to in this blog. But that was not the main problem. The main problem was that the school was not making their credit terms crystal clear to the girls parents from the outset.
We found out that there were several occasions when the school could let the parents know what the payment terms were before their daughter even started attending that school. We introduced the credit terms to the parents on each of these occasions as follows and parents are now told on 6 different occasions what the credit terms are before their daughter starts her very first term at the school.
The first time – the initial enquiry
Most parents look at several secondary schools about two years beforehand to decide which they think they would prefer to send their daughter to. Parents that look at this school are now sent (along with other literature) a copy of the current years school fees. This has a small paragraph at the bottom which says “Payment of each terms school fees is due and payable by the end of the first week of each term”.
The second time – acknowledgment of application letter
In many cases it is over a year before the parents decide which school they prefer. If they select this school and send in the formal application they are sent an “Acknowledgment of Application” letter from the school Bursar. A short paragraph has now been added to the body of this letter which reads …. “We wish to remind you that payment of each terms school fees is due and payable by the end of the first week of each term. If, at any time during your daughters attendance at the school, you find that you are not able to meet this requirement, we ask that you contact our Parent Liaison Officer, Mary Smith, to discuss the matter.”
The third time – first interview
If their application is successful, the parents and their daughter are invited to attend an interview with the schools Principal. In this meeting they are again given various bits of literature about the school and, again, a copy of the current years school fees is given to them with the terms clearly displayed in the small paragraph at the bottom.
The fourth time – letter of acceptance
Accepted? The parents then receive a “Welcome to our School” letter and again the credit terms are given a very brief mention ….
“PAYMENT OF SCHOOL FEES
It is a condition of this acceptance that parents agree to settle each terms school fees by the end of the first week of each term. Parents are invited to contact the schools Parent Liaison Officer, Mary Smith, if they believe they will have any difficulty doing so.”
The fifth time – orientation day
All the new girls are given all sorts of paperwork on this day to take home to Mum and Dad – rail passes, library rules, etc, etc and …. a separate little handout about the School Fees and when payment is due.
The sixth time – the first invoice
Because the parents have now already been told on five separate occasions what the credit terms are (Payment by the end of the first week of each term) we were able to be quite specific about when payment was due and the phrase on the bottom of the fees now reads as follows ….
“Payment of this invoice is due on or before Friday, (actual date went in here)”
The parents of the children attending that school are now left in no doubt whatsoever what the payment terms are. So much so in fact, that if they cannot pay the fees when they are due, they contact the school to tell them when they can!
At first glance you may think that all of this is a “bit heavy” or “going over the top” and that it may even scare some of the parents off from sending their daughter to this school but that has not been the case. The school is having very few problems now with payment of school fees because they are practicing what they preach – in the way they teach their students. They are teaching by repetition. They are teaching parents what the school credit terms are, by repetition. And isn’t that the core method of any teaching? Repetition? So … starting the whole process early really does make it easier – for everyone.