In a sentence: American College Dublin were spending too much time tracking and managing payments – they needed a system that would bring significant time savings for the finance team. They got even more.
The American College Dublin (ACD) is located in the birthplace of Oscar Wilde. Across the street, a statue of the great writer sits relaxing on a giant stone, looking across to where he spent his youth. In the tradition of their former resident, American College Dublin is primarily a liberal arts college.
Rather than being a place for Americans to study in Dublin, the ethos behind the university was to bring that liberal arts style education to the students of Ireland. Over the years, it’s grown both in size and reputation, and has indeed become a place for international students to come to Ireland and study. In recent years, Buzzfeed listed it as one of the top-five best places to study abroad.
The challenge for American College Dublin when it came to their accounting process was two-fold; 1) tracking and managing payments from across the world, and 2) their strategic plan to expand globally.
Simply tracking the payments was a struggle, leading to significant administration time being spent on tracking the source of payments and where they were in the banking system. Secondly, the cost to the students of making the payments often led to a shortfall in the amount received into the ACD account, leading to further time being spent on follow-up with the student and also adding complexity to the reconciliation process.
“Our student body essentially breaks down into a third Irish, a third American, and a third from the rest of the world’ says Rowland Crawte, Director of Administration, American College Dublin. ‘A lot of the pain came down to tracking the payments. We’d spend an awful amount of time figuring out where payments came from, who was sending them, and for what. You’d have situations where you have a student whose uncle’s company is paying for them, or something along those lines. Trying to figure that all out from very little information was very, very difficult and time consuming.”
Another challenge came as American College Dublin was expanding its presence across the world, opening up a new college in Bulgaria. This meant the finance team needed a simple and cost-effective way to make and receive payments for the school.
“We also have a truly international faculty coming in to the school – composers from Japan, America, Italy, South Africa, and many more – which meant we had to set-up an easy way to pay these people, and not to be too concerned about where they were coming from. We wanted to focus on the quality, not the process.”
The final challenge was the visa process for students – usually requiring proof of payment of the tuition to be granted. In the past, as the process was slow and time-consuming, any delays there would also mean a delay in the visa application for students. This again led to more administrative support being required to manage all the issues (and complaints) coming from these delays.
With TransferMate’s platform, American College Dublin were soon up and running with all the requirements they needed to solve their issues.
“Everything was very simple. TransferMate already knew how the approach works with international students so it was just a case of giving them our regulatory information needed to set-up the account. The actual technical implementation was utterly painless. It was basically 24 hours and we were switched over.”
The system itself made tracking and managing international payments so efficient that American College Dublin started using it to process domestic payments as well.
“It was so great having that one place where all the information lay. So, if somebody says “Oh, I’ve paid” I can simply log-in and within a few seconds I can see if they have. It’s no longer a case of me having to go in to look through one bank account or check the US bank account or anything like that – I just go into one system. It’s become our one true source! We’re not just using this for international students, we’re using this for all our payments. And it’ll make our lives a lot easier.”
The cost-effectiveness of the system was also welcomed by the team. As TransferMate’s payment rails don’t use the traditional banking system (where payments go through many intermediaries, each taking a fee for their services), and instead utilize the payment rails they have built themselves, the banking and FX fees were much lower.
“The old system was hitting our bottom line – there’s no question about that. We had tried many, many ways of doing this before TransferMate and we thought we had gotten the best rates we possible could. It was only when the TransferMate team explained how they operated that the penny dropped that there was this whole new way of doing this. At first, the decision was made on the basis of this – cost – but it’s really been the time savings that have made such a difference to how we work, and to our bottom line.”
The systems success in Bulgaria has also encouraged the team to further expand internationally.
“We have a couple of plans for courses that are aimed internationally. This system, again, allows us that option. That just wouldn’t have been that simple before.”
For visa applications, it hasn’t just sped up the process for students and made it easier for all parties, it’s helped the university proactively protect themselves against money-laundering schemes – a common threat when it comes to international tuition payments.
“It’s really helped us tighten up the security side. Before, we had requests from people saying, “Oh, can you transfer that back to my cousin in the UK?”, or something similar. With TransferMate, it’s very, very clear – you pay from this bank account, you are refunded to that bank account. Before we were chasing up on these things, now we’ve eliminated all that.”
It wasn’t just the finance team that benefited from the TransferMate system, it was the whole college.
“It’s increased the revenue of the college by about 3%, just purely on the savings we make on bank charges and credit card charges.”
The amount of time saved by the finance team was also very significant.
“In terms of processing time; I would say per payment we’ve probably knocked 20 to 30% off the amount of time that we would normally have spent chasing up those things.”
With the TransferMate system in place, the American College Dublin have added revenue to the bottom-line, saved substantial administration time on the payments process, enhanced the student experience, saved the students money, and added greater protection against fraud and money-laundering.
The Final Word
“I’d wholeheartedly recommend TransferMate. Besides the time and cost savings, and the better student experience it helps us deliver, the customer service is impeccable. If I have any issues – and there haven’t been many – there’s always a response. If anyone is thinking about it, I’d say start the conversation as soon as possible.”
Rowland Crawte, Director of Administration, American College Dublin
If you’d like to learn how TransferMate can save your university time and money when processing payments, get in touch with the team here.