How to Actually Pay Your Tuition Bill

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The process of paying tuition bills seems fairly simple. However, depending on what method you use, you may pay fees or need a little more time for the payment to process.


Here’s what you need to know about methods of payments, associated fees, and time frames.


How to send personal checks


Schools accepting personal checks may require the checks arrive by a specific time and date. Otherwise, tuition counts as unpaid and the student can be withdrawn from classes.


Checks should be sent at least a week to 10 days in advance of due dates for on-time arrival. Always call the school to verify if the check arrived.


Checks are generally required to be in U.S. currency from a U.S. bank. 


The biggest perk to sending personal checks is there isn’t a payment processing fee. Schools may also accept electronic checks for faster payment processing times


How to pay from an international bank


If you want to pay from an international bank, there are services for paying tuition. Each school may use a different one. For instance, the New Jersey Institute of Technology uses FlyWire. Columbia University accepts payments via Western Union.


You can also wire money to the student’s U.S. bank. Compare fees and exchange rates for all options available to you. Make sure you compare exchange rates on the same day as rates can change quickly. 


How paying by credit card works


Paying by credit card is pretty convenient. You pay the school directly and can verify that the payment was attempted almost immediately and processed within a day or two. Credit cards generally have to be issued from U.S. banks. 


The drawback to paying by card is potential fees. According to a recent survey, over half of colleges charge fees to use credit cards to pay for tuition. The average fee was over 2.5 percent. A 2.5 percent fee on $10,000 adds $250 to the price of college, almost the same price as a semester of textbooks. 


If the college you select charges a fee, and you have to get the money to the school in a short time frame, an alternate option is to overnight a personal check. Overnight delivery is generally costs around $20, which is much cheaper than a credit card fee. Electronic checks may also be an option.


How deferred payments work


If you select deferred payments such as an installment plan, you’ll need to make sure payments arrive by the specified dates. The agreement will say how the payment can be made such as whether credit cards will be accepted and if there will be additional fees.


Deferred payment agreements should be made and planned for at least a few days before the first payment is due. 


How to withdraw funds from investment / 529 plans


Depending on the investment plan and the kind of investments you have, it may take several days to access funds. Then, you’ll also need to know your options for payment, such as paper or e-checks and whether they are written to or transferred to the account owner or the school.


Talk to your financial advisor or 529 plan, college savings plan, manager to find out the process for requesting and sending money.


How and when outside scholarships are sent


Generally, private scholarships will send in payments directly to the school. But you want to verify how and when they are sending the money.


If the money doesn’t arrive on time, you may need to follow up with the scholarship provider and get an extension from the school on payment until the money arrives.


How and when to check when student loans arrive


The school could still drop students from classes if federal or private student loans do not arrive before do dates. 


To prevent the student being dropped, you must follow up with the federal government about when the money will arrive to the school for federal loans. You’ll want to call private loan lenders as well.


If the money won’t arrive on time, a time extension should be requested by the student for payment. The time extension may be awarded in the student accounting or financial aid office. Contact the individual school to find out which.


5 Takeaways

  • Send personal checks at least 7 to 10 days ahead of the date payment is due. Schools generally won’t care if the check is lost in the mail, and you need time to cancel the check and make an alternate payment if it doesn’t arrive on time.
  • Paying by credit card can be pricey. If your school charges for credit card payments, you may want to consider e-checks or overnight check payments instead.
  • International students and families should compare costs for all options available for sending money in for tuition.
  • Generally, outside scholarships pay the school directly. However, you need to check with the scholarship provider as to how and when they are sending funds.
  • Schools look at the student as being ultimately responsible for paying tuition on time, whether the money comes federal student loans or your own pocket. Since the student can be dropped from courses for late payments, it’s important to find out all time frames possible for money arrival.

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