BY BRYNN BOYER
With rising tuition prices on the horizon and uncertain economic times affecting family finances, Mary Washington students and parents now have the ability to make monthly payments online as well as the option to pay by credit card.
UMW has recently awarded a contract to Nelnet Business Solutions to continue providing tuition payment plans and electronic payment options to those who pay tuition.
“Our goal is to assist students and families to continue their attendance at UMW during these unsettled times,” Allyson Moerman, assistant vice president for finance, explained.
According to the UMW student accounts website, payment plans can be set up through Nelnet’s eCashier system.
Through the system, students or parents can spread the cost of tuition over five months per semester or 10 months per academic year, with automatic payments from a checking or savings account or a credit card. The system also gives the option of paying the entire balance in full.
However, Nelnet requires a nonrefundable enrollment fee for those wishing to set up a payment plan. The fee is $40 for one semester, $60 for a full year and $2 for one time payments.
Also, the eCashier system does not accept Visa as a credit option, only American Express, Discover or Mastercard.
“We try to discourage people from using this option because they are subject to a 2.5% convenience fee in addition to the enrollment fee,” Paul Griggs, accounts receivable manager, said.
According to Moerman, UMW has offered some form of a tuition payment plan for at least the past 10 years. This year some changes will be taking effect, namely that students will not need to reenter their personal information since it will be communicated from Banner. Also, weekly balances will be available in the eCashier system so that students and parents can adjust their plans as needed.
According to Griggs, this year students or parents set up 921 payment plans, a number that includes both the Fredericksburg and Stafford campuses.
“I do think it is under-utilized by students,” he said.
He explained that the majority of students and parents choose to pay by check rather than electronically.
Nelnet, a provider of campus commerce services, works with nearly 800 schools nationwide, according to their website. Both the University of Virginia and James Madison University have contracts with Nelnet, with similar payment plan options to UMW.
With tuition prices set to increase from this year’s rates of $6,774 for in-state students and $17,942 for out of state students, payment plans may become a more popular option for UMW students and parents.
“These are uncertain times,” Griggs said, “and I think if we can increase the promotion of the payment plan option and improve the interaction of the plan with our school’s database it will help ease the economic pressure.”