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In a sentence: VITA Student needed an accounts payable platform that was easy-to-use when processing student accommodation payments, provided a single source of truth, and most importantly improved the student experience.

About VITA Student

VITA Student provides students with the highest quality accommodation experience while they’re studying. Born in 2012, it’s had a rapid rise with 23 buildings across the UK under its remit, and a recent expansion into Barcelona adding to its portfolio.

With 10,000 beds to be filled each year, around 1 in every 30 students in the entire UK will be staying at Vita Student.  

The Challenge

Making the experience of paying for student accommodation needs to be seamless, or a lot of problems arise.
Making the experience of paying for student accommodation needs to be seamless, or a lot of problems arise.

Working in such a dynamic marketplace, with huge surges in demand concentrated over a few periods in the calendar, Vita Student needed a student accommodation payment platform that could:

1) Automate key functions to reduce administration time

2) Create a live ‘source of truth’ for the Vita Student team

3) Speed up and smooth out the payment journey for students to reduce any anxieties they had

“We came to TransferMate when the UK rules around debit and credit card facilities changed” said Nichola Collette-Yates, Head of Customer Engagement, Vita Student. ‘We had to make the commercial decision to completely switch off all debit and credit card facilities. The problem was… that left us with no payment system.”

This change meant that the only way a student could make payments was transferring the money directly into Vita Student bank accounts. This proved difficult for both customers and the Vita Student team alike and increased student anxiety in the run up to living with Vita Student.

Students would often pay in separate payments, rather than the full amount in one go, which made it hard to match the payment with the student. What’s more, payments made from people other than the student themselves – their parents for example – made it even more difficult to match up payments.

Being unable to confirm payments meant that students wouldn’t move through the system, and would instead be caught in limbo, causing multiple inquiries to the Vita Student team and lost bookings.

“Reconciling the money coming into the bank accounts directly was taking months at its worst point. Students were cancelling because we were querying payments with them and it was taking too long There was simply far too much manual work and it wasn’t a pleasant experience for the customer.”

This administration, manpower heavy process was costing Vita Student on the bottom line.

“As a business it was very costly to us because of the time we were spending process and reconciling payments. As well as that, we were losing bookings. We were having to cancel bookings and try to resell them at the last minute.”

The lack of automation and technology in place was also causing issues for the students.

“It was really difficult for them in that if they didn’t send enough money or there were intermediary bank charges that they didn’t know to account for said Sam Hardy, Customer Engagement Manager at VITA Student. ‘This meant we’d have to follow-up looking for further payments, further delaying everything, or writing it off as a bad debt. Of course, these mis-matched payments didn’t help with reconciliation down the line either.”

The whole process for the VITA Student team, and the students themselves, was ‘messy’ and they needed a new all-inclusive solution.

The Solution

Create a live ‘source of truth’ for the Vita Student team

Before TransferMate, the data of all student accommodation payments was held on disparate systems, and often tricky to access.

This meant multiple inquiries going several ways – students asking the Vita team to confirm their payments, and the Vita team reaching out to students to provide further information, as well as the banks. 

“It’s given us security around future payments”

“The most important thing we needed was the ability to track the payments coming in. It was about having an easy place to go and look at a student’s status and having that viewable for us. We needed to de-risk our payment process so we could see what was due to land, who hadn’t yet started that process, who was engaging, and who wasn’t. Now everything’s on the TransferMate portal.”

Ensuring payments are accepted quickly means that the students can plan with more security
Ensuring payments are accepted quickly means that the students can plan with more security

This ability to track live data has positively impacted revenue, their ability to manage cash flow, and manage bookings more efficiently.

“It’s given us security around future payments and what’s coming over the next couple of weeks. The treasury department is happier because they have a much clearer idea of what cash will be coming through the door. Combining these two factors makes it easier to make key business decisions at the right time, which helps us maximise revenue each cycle.”

Automating key functions to reduce administration time

One of the core functions of the TransferMate education payments solution is how it removes the need for disparate systems. For the Vita Student team, they were regularly pulling big data files from their banking system, and then trying to match them up in another system. Reconciliation became a tedious and time-consuming task.

“It took significant amounts of time for the accounts team to manually reconcile everything – I really felt for them! Now we can do that all pretty much instantly, matching it all against the student’s account as well.”

Now, the team don’t have to leave the TransferMate portal to get the information they need. Automation and bringing the data together in one place has made reconciliation much easier and less complicated.

“It helps us structure our efficiencies within the team. We can focus on the areas that need it, whereas before, the time spent on finance reconciliation was hindering our ability to provide the impeccable customer service levels that we aspire to.”

Speed up and smooth out the payment journey for students

An screenshot of the TransferMate payment portal for students
A screenshot of the TransferMate payment portal for students

For the student, the process became much easier to track and control from their end, with a simple portal they could access to get all the information they needed. The TransferMate portal also gives students more payment options than before.

“It really makes it so much smoother for the student. Firstly, it makes it really clear what they’ve got to send in their currency and what references they need to put in there and which bank account to send it to. And then there’s simple features like when they click ‘Pay Now’ the pop-up window will pre-populate the boxes with all their information, so it’s super-easy for the students to make payments.”

Payment related queries from students were reduced from 8,299 to just 211 after implementation

“The other element is that because we have to spend much less time on the payment part, we can now concentrate on delivering those value-add elements to the students. That’s a big boost for team morale as well, because suddenly were focusing on the positive stuff, and not just chasing payments.”

The results have been outstanding. While Vita Student had its biggest and busiest year in their history, payment related queries from students were reduced from 8,299 to just 211. They’ve seen a 39% reduction in emails into their inbox, and now 86% of all payments come through the TransferMate platform.

The Final Word

“One thing Vita Student prides itself on is the experience. And if the experience of even just making a payment to us is difficult, then we failed at the first hurdle. We can transact now with ease. It’s a frictionless journey for all of our students across the world.”

Nichola Collette-Yates, Head of Customer Engagement, VITA Student

To learn more about how TransferMate can support student tuition and accommodation payments, contact the team today.

In a sentence: Transact Campus was looking for a white-label solution that would allow their university clients to offer a seamless, transparent and cost-effective way for international students to pay for tuition.

Transact by the Numbers:

12 million$45 billion1,75038+ years
Students servedTransactions facilitated  Education institutions partnered withOf higher education focus  

The Challenge

Times have changed a lot since Transact Campus started specializing in the higher education market 38 years ago. It wouldn’t be until nearly a decade later that student campus ID cards were introduced in the US, and a digitally integrated campus was just an ambition for education administrators.

Transact has been at the forefront of the dramatic change we see today in how students engage and interact with their campus and the university itself.

They were the first to work with Apple and Google to integrate a contactless student ID credential on smartphones and watches so with a tap of their phone, students can make purchases or securely access dorms and classrooms.  

Transact helped pioneer campus commerce through point-of-sale and mobile ordering. On top of that, Transact Integrated Payments solutions – focused around tuition and fees – was aimed at making campus payments a seamless experience for the students and their families.

The challenge for Transact was bringing this frictionless and transparent experience of tuition payments to international students wanting to study in the U.S. Previously, international students would have to leave the Transact ecosystem to make a payment, meaning the data was split between two systems – both for the student and the the school administrator.

“The payment would initiate through our system, but we would then have to hand it off to a second provider” said Laura McLaughlin, Executive Vice President, Transact. “So, we wouldn’t know if the payment actually went through. It meant a lot of follow-up with the second provider asking for reports and manually reviewing spreadsheets to confirm the payment was processed. Basically, a lot of reviewing and reconciliation.”

What’s more, the old system meant international student payments were subject to high banking fees and significant FX (foreign exchange) charges – something Transact wanted to eliminate for the students.

The Solution

TransferMate's API integrated solution made it easier for Transact to process international student payments.
TransferMate’s API integrated solution made it easier for Transact to process international student payments

Utlizing TransferMate’s global payments infrastructure and technology, Transact is able to co-create a fully integrated international payments solution. Through API integrations, TransferMate sat in the background as a white-label solution. For the students, this meant they no longer had to register and use two separate systems to make a payment. This meant a lot of positive changes for the Transact team. 

“It’s really painful to have to reconcile payments from two different systems and there is a lot of follow-up involved. Sometimes, because the systems weren’t fully integrated, the student would overpay which causes its own administrative challenges. It could become a painful process. And we thought, “We’re in the payment space. This is what we do. We facilitate over $45 million dollars annually. How can we make this process easier for our clients?”

So, Transact engaged with TransferMate to create a bespoke API integration that would solve these issues around international student payments. The result was ‘Transact International Payments’ which provides Transact’s university partners a streamlined way to accept international tuition payments in multiple currencies.

“The building and implementation of the API solution went really well. We learned together as we went, and we both had to develop things on each side to make it work. In order for us to succeed, we needed to have a trusted partnership, be transparent with each other, and agree fully on the timeframe for implementation. I think it was a great partnership because we both had the singular focus on getting this up and running, making it really attractive and seamless, and solving those pain points for our clients.”

The backbone to the system was the global payments infrastructure TransferMate had built up over many years. By obtaining banking licenses in over 90 countries, they allowed the Transact International Payments solution to process payments from 201 countries and 141 currencies.

Leveraging this infrastructure, the API integration was built to match Transact’s system and the requirements of their finance team, making the whole process seamless for all stakeholders – from the students to the universities and for Transact itself.

And, because this global payments infrastructure didn’t use the traditional banking system to process international student payments, which often means the money travels between several different banks and third-party entities (each charging a fee), the cost to the students of making the payment was significantly reduced.   

As the money moved through a single system, this also meant transparency for everybody was increased dramatically. The student, university and Transact could see when a payment was made, when it was accepted, and any steps in between.

“I think we have taken the friction out of the process for our university clients and have made it a lot easier to see transparent payments through a singular system. We now fully understand and can track where that payment is, and when it’s coming in. And transparency extends to the students and their parents, particularly in making it easier to what their options are, and not have a disparate experience between multiple systems. I also would say that the economics have been beneficial for students.”


A smooth international student payments process is a key part of attracting students from abroad
Over 100 schools have already signed up to Transact International Payments since its launch

The Transact International Payments solution has been welcomed enthusiastically by the university community, solving some long-held problems in the tuition payments process. 

“It’s clearly evidenced that we’ve solved a real pain point because, even though we’re in relatively early days, we have over 100 schools signed up for the Transact International Payments solution and only in a few short months. Our clients clearly see the value and benefit to themselves and their students.”

While the breadth of the challenges was significant – by delivering a more transparent, cost-effective, secure, and seamless experience for campus operations and students – all the objectives have been met through the partnership.

“We needed to ensure we had the international reach for this to be effective for students. With TransferMate’s global footprint, we were able to not only offer the service to the top 10 countries with students coming to the United States, but countries with smaller populations as well. The cost factor was critical for us too. We needed to be sure that the service was really competitive and the most economical choice. Finally, we really wanted to work with somebody that we felt we could have a true strategy partner, not just a– we weren’t looking for a vendor. It was really important for us that we worked together, that there was longevity in the relationship, that there was trust in that relationship, and that we had ease of working together.”

The Final Word

“I definitely would recommend TransferMate. They are easy to work with, transparent on how things are going, and from a project management perspective, we’ve had unbelievable support in getting things done. At the end of the process, we’ve been able to build something great that will benefit students and universities alike – you can see that from the take-up.”

Laura McLaughlin, Executive Vice President, Transact

To join the 100+ universities that have taken advantage of the Transact International Payments solution, click here to request a custom demo.

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 Challenge

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.

“A lot of the pain came down to tracking the payments”

“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.  

The Solution

Students celebrating
The system has led to easier, more transparent and cost-effective student payments

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’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 life a lot easier”

“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.”


Students in university
International payments cost less for students, and are easier to administer for the university team

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.”

“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.

There are countless areas that fintech has revolutionized how organisations make and accept payments, particularly cross-border ones (including U.S. student loan payments). The problem isn’t accessing these solutions, or using them, it’s hearing about them.

One niche that falls into this category is non-U.S. universities processing U.S. student loan payments – typically via a private lender, a public federal loan, or an army veteran loan. In our latest webinar, ‘The Faster Way to Process U.S. Student Loans’, our experts Aoife Walsh and Jonathan Church talked about how new solutions could save universities time, money and administration time by leveraging these methods, while also enhancing the student experience in the process.

Here, we break down the big takeaways from that session. To watch the full session, click here.

Number 1: The old system for processing U.S. student loan payments is broken

The traditional way of processing U.S. student loans via the correspondence banking system is cumbersome, expensive (for university and student), and time-consuming. As Jonathan Church explained, it’s based on centuries old infrastructure, especially when it comes to processing cheques.

Number 2: The inefficiencies come down to three basic things – speed, cost, and ease

No matter what lengths a non-U.S. university has gone to make the process easier, such as moving away from cheques and setting up U.S. bank accounts, they will still come up against problems. Aoife Walsh explains in more detail about why it’s such a difficult web to untangle.

Number 3: There is an alternative out there

Because of the infrastructure built by fintech’s over the last couple of decades, non-U.S. universities now have a genuine alternative to the traditional correspondence banking system. By utilising these local rails set-up by fintech’s, they can now process U.S. student loan payments quicker, at a lower cost and more transparently.

Number 4: The alternative is easy to set-up

Much like the process itself, getting set-up with this new way of doing things is quick and easy. As Aoife Walsh explains, it’s a matter of taking a few simple steps and you’re ready to make processing U.S. student loans as a non-U.S. university faster and more cost-effective than ever before.

To find out how TransferMate can transform how you process U.S. student loans, click here.

Criminals are always looking for an angle. If they can find one that works again and again, they won’t just keep going at the same rate, they’ll pile on and ramp it up. When it comes to money-laundering schemes, using universities to launder ill-gotten gains has become evermore common as rules tighten up elsewhere.

Reports are emerging from around the world that illustrate the true scale of the problem. As this scale becomes more apparent, it is likely to seep into the public conscious, leaving universities that don’t have strong anti-money laundering policies and procedures in place open to transformative new legislation.

For universities that don’t take a proactive approach, they may find themselves waking up one day in the unenviable position of realizing a sizeable chunk of their revenue is from illegitimate sources.

Common money-laundering schemes that universities are affected by

Refund schemes

The refund scheme is a classic of its type and works particularly well in the university financial ecosystem where refunds are common. It allows for a criminal to pay for tuition fees (or other associated university costs such as accommodation etc.) before canceling their proposed education and then requesting a refund from the university – thereby ‘washing’ the money through the university. The criminal will often recruit students to act as a “money-mules”, and the refund may be re-directed to the Criminal.

A 2019 report in Canada by the British Columbia Attorney General found many instances of this scheme. Agents and third parties were also commonly used as accomplices, collecting the refund on behalf of the ‘student’.

A sideline is wildly overpaying for fees and then requesting a refund for the surplus.

The same Canadian report found that in once case a student who was only required to pay a $150 dollar charge arrived at the college with $9,000 in a duffel bag and asked to deposit all of it with the college. They would then be able to withdraw the money later in the form of a check from the university, which on the surface would be a ‘clean’ source of money.

Cash payments

While most tuition fees are paid digitally, there are still large tuition fees being paid to universities in cash.
While most tuition fees are paid digitally, there are still large tuition fees being paid to universities in cash.

While we live in a largely digital economy, paying for university in cash is not as uncommon as you think.

An investigation by the UK Times in 2021 found that UK universities had accepted £52 million ($65 million USD) in cash for tuition fees. In a separate investigation in the same year found that UK universities (and boarding schools) estimated that there were £30 million ($42 million USD) worth of questionable payments made from West Africa.

Put simply, these cash payments are open for allowing fraudsters to money-launder proceeds from crime or bribery. While cash payments aren’t generally allowed for high-value purchases, such as houses, in the UK at least they are allowed to be used for tuition fees, which can be substantial in themselves.

In the UK and across Europe, a university receiving cash payments of €10,000 or more in single or linked transactions in exchange for goods or services may be classed as a “High Value Dealer” which may result in the need to report such transactions to the authorities.

“TransferMate Education works with universities around the world to reduce their exposure to cash-based payments while providing the student with several alternative payment mechanisms, and coupled with an industry-leading compliance system to detect real risk in real time” said Simon McFeely, Chief Risk & Compliance Officer at TransferMate.

Third-Party Payees

Another potential for universities to be caught up in money-laundering schemes is allowing third-parties pay for a student’s tuition fees.

Corrupt officials – both in the public and private sphere – can us a tuition fee to facilitate a bribe rather than directly accepting the money.

While this is not illegal (think of a generous benefactor hearing a person’s story and deciding to help them out) it again opens up the possibility of fraud and vulnerable students to act as money-mules. Corrupt officials – both in the public and private sphere – can also use the tuition fee to facilitate a bribe rather than directly accepting the money.

In countries where public officials earn relatively low amounts compared to tuition fees in major world universities, real red flags must be raised when third parties are paying for their children’s education.

Insider collaboration

While not a scheme in and of itself, universities need to include the potential for internal collaboration with fraudsters in their thinking. The schemes mentioned above can be carried out with the university as an unwitting stooge, or as part of a more elaborate scheme.

Secondly, ‘turning a blind eye’ can be just as dangerous in the long run.

If universities allow for fraud to happen by simply ignoring the issue and not proactively preventing or investigating it, they may well be caught out through changes in the law. This would mean an abrupt shortfall of revenue and becoming an existential threat to the institutions very existence, and this isn’t including the very real reputational risk they might suffer if money-laundering activities were found to be rife within their financial system.

How universities can prevent money-laundering when accepting payments

A proactive approach, from systems to training, is vital for universities wanting to tackle fraud.

As always, there is no silver bullet or impenetrable shield that prevents fraud. Once one obstacle is put up, fraudsters generally will find a way to circumvent it in some way. However, there are concrete steps universities can take to prevent from being used in money-laundering schemes.

Get ahead of the legislation, and protect your brand

An overall policy and philosophy for university leaders is to actively seek out proposed legislation around the world and implement it before it becomes a reality. While the laws may never tighten around university payments like they do around other institutions more closely associated with the financial sector, it is likely that they will be under more severe scrutiny than they currently are at some point down the road.

And there are existing laws. For example, in the United Kingdom, a university has a duty under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to notify the relevant authorities if it suspects that its processes or services are being used to launder money obtained through criminal activity, and it is required by law to have a robust Anti-Money Laundering program in place.

No university wants to support criminal activity in any manner, nor be in the headlines, so from a brand and reputational standpoint, it makes good sense move away from cash-based payments not only to streamline the admission process but also to ensure that risk exposure is reduced through the use of a carefully selected payment partner.

Automated checks and systems in payment process

Having a robust payment system with AML and fraud checks is one of the key (and cost-effective) ways universities can protect themselves against criminal activities in their payment processes.

Modern payment systems use the latest technologies to detect and prevent fraud before they go through the system.

Modern payment systems use the latest technologies to detect and prevent fraud before they go through the system. They also have the advantage of having a larger global footprint than many of even the largest banks, meaning they have embedded local rules in their systems when payments pass through certain countries.

“Our systems have very stringent checks on potential fraudulent payments’ said Simon McFeely, Chief Risk & Compliance Officer at TransferMate. ‘Universities can track payments end-to-end, know that they are checked against international sanctions lists, will be notified if any payment contravenes the AML checks we have embedded in the system, and have the highest standards of data security. Additionally, our sophisticated screening and monitoring technology applies to the student and the payer of the fees; we believe a first in the industry to do so.”

Refund to the original source of payment

One of the best ways to deter a criminal scheme is to only refund cancelled tuition payments to their original source. In essence, this leaves the criminals back at square one.

Refunding to a different bank account, for example, can be another step in the criminal layering their ill-gotten gains and integrating it into the legitimate financial system.

However, there are genuine reasons why a refund may need to go back to another bank account, so it’s important to use a system with specific in-built rules that target criminal typologies to weed-out potential bad-actors.

Ignorance of the law is not a defense, and this is particularly true in financial crimes.

Establish an AML culture

Culture will always play a role in tackling money-laundering. Regular training will allow the financial team to spot obvious cases of potential fraud and raise concerns with more opaque cases.

In general, ignorance of the law is not a defense, and this is particularly true in financial crimes. Allowing a culture of turning a blind eye to money laundering can leave the university vulnerable to not only reputational risks, but legal ones too.

Getting ahead of the game is key

When you see how vulnerable universities are to money-laundering schemes, it becomes plain that more needs to be done. Without a proactive approach, these schemes will build to such a scale where the very existence of universities will be put at risk.

While criminals are good at finding angles, there should be few better institutions than a university to see those angles and counteract them with new and innovative solutions. After all, isn’t that what education is all about?

If you want to talk to our experts and discover how TransferMate’s solutions can protect your university from money laundering and fraudulent schemes, click here.

There are many ways cultures mark the beginning of adulthood. From religious ceremonies to a traditional rite of passage to a significant birthday, being designated a ‘grown-up’ is usually marked by an event rather than experience.

The real moments we become adults, however, is when we interact with the real-world on our own, and few are as impactful as when we experience the twisted logic of bureaucracy for the first time.

For U.S. students looking to study abroad, paying for their tuition through a private, federal, or veteran loan may well be one of those occasions. The labyrinthian process that a U.S. student loan cheque goes through is quite remarkable – travelling several thousand miles back and forth across oceans, passing through multiple hands and, unfortunately, losing value along the way.

The traditional way of processing U.S. student loans as a non-U.S. university

We’ve talked before about the traditional correspondent banking infrastructure versus the modern payment rails being built today, and processing U.S. student loan payments is another area where the old system leads to more complications than is necessary.

We’ll specifically focus on cheques for this part, as it highlights the extremes payments have to go through, but even universities that have moved away from it and set-up a U.S. Dollar bank account still require elements like EIN and DUNS numbers, which is just one more layer of complexity to deal with.

Speaking of complexity, be prepared to read this next paragraph twice.

In the traditional way, a U.S. student can apply for a student loan to study abroad from three main places – private companies (such as Sallie Mae), federal loans, and army veteran loans. Once successful, the loan approver sends the cheque or bank transfer for tuition fees to the non-U.S. university in U.S. dollars. The non-U.S. university then converts that cheque into their local currency, sending it back to a U.S. bank for clearance, sometimes even needing to go to the specific branch, where it’s converted back to dollars before being sent back again to a local bank where the money is again converted into the local currency, such as Euros, British Pounds, Australian dollars, or whatever local currency is needed. At this point, the non-U.S. university must reconcile the payment as the amount is now different because of the bank charges the payment has incurred along the way, as well as the FX commissions charged during each conversion.

This leads to:

  1. Delays in students being confirmed that they have their place at the university.
  2. The students don’t receive their full payments because of the banking and FX fees incurred, sometimes leaving to a shortfall in living expenses.

What’s more, it’s a slow process – often taking weeks and even months – leaving both university and student in the dark while the payment is making its way through this circuitous route. This can mean problems are only identified at the last minute, leading to more anxiety and stress for all parties.

The Old Way to Process U.S. Student Loan Payments
A graphic demonstrating the traditional way of processing U.S. student loans as a non-U.S. university

This is essentially a result of a banking infrastructure built up over centuries that is not conducive to modern needs. As a result, banks themselves are now working with fintech companies to provide faster, simpler, and more cost-effective solutions.

The modern way to process U.S. student loan payments as a non-U.S. university

The modern method of processing U.S. student loan payments bypasses many of the steps used in the traditional way. It utilizes modern payment rails and infrastructure to cut-out much of the complexity and expense of the old way, and significantly reduces processing time.

Here’s how it works.

The non-U.S. university sets-up a U.S. bank account with a fintech provider. Even if the non-U.S. university has to go through the KYC (Know your Customer) and onboarding process, this can be done within a few days. If they are already a client, it can literally be less than a minute to set-up a U.S. bank account. Then, the U.S. loan company pays directly into the non-U.S. universities U.S. bank account. The University can then draw down their local currency from that account.

This has significant benefits:

  1. Processing time is reduced from 4 – 6 weeks to between 24 – 48 hours.  
  2. The amount paid is the amount received, meaning the university receives all the loan payment, and the student receives their full loan amount.
  3. There are no bank charges and considerably less FX charges.
The New and Faster Way to Process U.S. Student Loan Payments
How TransferMate leverages modern payment rails and technologies to provide a more efficient, fully transparent U.S. student loan process

The reason this is all possible is that fintech’s, such as TransferMate, have acquired regulatory banking licenses across the world, allowing them to circumvent many of the third-party handlers that you’re required to pass through via the traditional banking network.

This means that less institutions handle the money (and therefore there are less charges and fees), the payment flow is transparent because you have full visibility over the payment path, and the time it takes is significantly reduced.

The U.S. student loan payment process reaches adulthood

A core attribute of any ambitious university student is the desire to change the system they’re about to enter. Whatever issue they focus on, it’s how it can be changed that excites them the most. Unfortunately, systems have an innate ability to beat people down to the point where they not only accept it, but they also become active in propping it up through their working lives.

Making a tuition payment – particularly an international one – can be one of those first experiences of a system that will lead to a desire to change it. Fortunately, it’s already been done. It’s now a matter of implementing this new way so it becomes the norm.

And maybe, just maybe, we can put off becoming an adult just a little while longer.

TransferMate hosted a webinar, ‘The Faster Way to Process U.S. student loans‘, on Thursday, May 5th, 2022. You can register here to watch the on-demand recording.


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