College offices transition to paperless billing

Two administrative departments at the College have recently transitioned to partially paperless billing. In the summer of 2011, the Bursar’s office switched to an entirely digital bill-paying system for students. Human Resources (HR) has also made efforts to go paperless by offering direct deposits – rather than writing checks – and introducing electronic pay stubs. These moves were made for both environmental and administrative reasons.

With over 1300 students working for the College over 20 pay periods, HR issued 400 to 1200 paper checks every two weeks prior to the transition to direct deposits and electronic paystubs. Given this, “one push [we] make when students fill out their hiring paperwork is to have them sign up for direct deposit,” Student Employment Coordinator James Cart ’05 said. Direct deposit also cuts the worries of losing checks, which is good because “a fair amount of process, money and time is involved in canceling lost checks,” according to Cart.

Last spring, Student Employment found that despite encouraging students to “green up [their] pay stubs,” 85 percent of students still received a paper pay stub for their student employment, which Cart believes was “because [students] had to actively opt out of receiving the paper statements.” Starting this year, paychecks are now automatically set to be viewable only online and students must change their Peoplesoft settings to receive a physical paycheck. According to Cart, only one student has opted for a physical paycheck thus far. Digital paychecks save time and money for HR, as well as creating environmental benefits.

Student Employment continues to encourage students to go electronic. According to payroll staff, the number of students with paperless payroll rose from 108 students this time last year to 697 students as of Oct. 19, with the number of students using direct deposit with a printed invoice in their mailbox dropping from 541 students to one student. Student Employment reports that 296 students still receive payment by check, a decrease from 321 receiving check payments last year. The payroll staff estimates these reductions to account for 9000 fewer paper advices this year and a savings of $350 annually for HR.

Student Employment’s next big paperless push will be to switch to electronic timecards. “[We are] in the process, but [it] will likely be at least one if not two or three more years before [we’re] ready to make that switch,” Cart said.

The Bursar’s office made the switch to e-billing last summer “to make it easier for students to get the bill quickly,” said Bursar Mary Kate Shea. It used to be “quite a project to send 2000 paper bills,” resulting in a significant lag between the actual bill being issued and students receiving it. This lag has now been reduced to an hour or two. Additionally, Shea mentioned that the Bursar’s office spent a significant amount of time merely placing bills into envelopes.

While the move toward paperless billing has environmental repercussions, Shea commented that the Bursar’s office was first concerned with efficiency. “The environment was a significant component of the motivation but not the primary reason,” she said.

The new e-billing system is run through Tuition Management System (TMS), a vendor with many collegiate clients. As such, the transition to e-billing has been relatively problem-free. The Bursar’s office is “working with TMS on a new module that’s a more real-time system,” as the bills are still static, Shea said.

Another advantage of the new e-bill system, according to Shea, is that students are able to authorize as many people as they want to be able to see their e-bills and “can make a payment through the e-bill system as well.” Rather than merely forwarding the bill or sharing their login info, the Bursar’s office “encourage[s] students, if they have someone paying their bills, to grant that person access,” Shea said. The Bursar’s office receives many requests from parents to be granted access, but only the student can do that. She said that “more students have been granting their parents or guardians access” this semester than last year.