Like most businesses engaging in transactions, preschool and childcare centers may encounter disagreements with families regarding tuition payments. These disagreements are typically  the result of missed communication or an unintentional mistake caused by human error. This article lays out approaches to help providers and families avoid these situations and to resolve them quickly if they do occur.

For Providers 

How to avoid payment disagreements:

  • Communicate proactively. Is tuition changing? Did you have to unexpectedly close for a few days last week because you were sick? Is your school closed for a day next week because of a holiday? Every school has different policies and it can be hard for families to remember them all. If you are billing families for a month that differs at all from a “regular” month, you should communicate these changes proactively so they know what to expect and are reminded of any relevant policies. In addition, make it a practice to circulate all of your billing policies to families at least once or twice a year.
  • Tell parents they can talk to you if they are worried about payments or disagree with payments. Regularly check in with parents, especially if you know or believe there could be changes to the family’s jobs or life situation. You can’t prevent payment issues unless you know about them ahead of time. 
  • Be flexible. When we get to speak with our schools we constantly hear how dedicated owners and staff are to helping their families succeed. Those parents will then become your best supporters and informal advertisers in the community. To build up this type of trust and community sometimes you need to be flexible. Perhaps it’s a creative payment plan for a single-income household going through a job transition or bending a vacation day policy for a family that forgot about the policy. We repeatedly see situations where lending parents a small helping hand when they need it makes the relationship even stronger for the future. 
  • Encourage (or require) autopay. Most of the payment issues we see are due to mistakes during manual payments. Consider asking or requesting that your parents set up autopay so that they pay the right amount every time with no mistakes. 
  • If a parent accidentally submitted a payment and the payment’s status is “pending” you should refund as soon as it clears. There is no way for you or brightwheel to stop a payment that is “pending”. Once the payment has cleared and is marked “Paid”, you can send the parent a refund. 

What to do if there is a payment disagreement:

  • Talk with the parent. Understand what happened. Was there an error in a charge or in a payment? Was a policy misunderstood? Was a change in tuition unexpected? Once you understand what happened, work with the parent to find a mutually agreeable solution. It could involve a refund or applying any overpayment towards future payments.
  • Be flexible. Life happens. Check some of our suggestions above for examples of how other schools have extended flexibility in order to support their families and earn loyal advocates.
  • Submit a support request with brightwheel. We are here to help you succeed! Our Billing experts can look at your account and help you understand what happened and what your options are.
  • Avoid a repeat experience. Once you understand what happened, try to figure out how to prevent it from happening again. Could your policies be more clear or more readily available to parents? Could you have communicated more proactively? Could you have required parents to set up autopay to avoid mistakes with manual payments? Feel free to reach out to brightwheel for help with this.

For Parents

How to avoid payment disagreements:

  • Talk to your school. If you’re worried about making a payment or if you disagree with a certain policy the best place to start is with a conversation. We have seen many of the schools we work with go out of their way to support their families. Talk to your school often and early. 
  • Double-check before you submit any payments: 1) Ensure you or a spouse haven’t already paid, 2) Make sure there aren’t extra zeroes, 3) Make sure you selected the correct payment source. If autopay is On, make sure your automatic payment will be charged to the proper account, 4) Check any processing fees - if there is a high credit card fee consider switching to an ACH payment.
  • Submit a support request with brightwheel. We are here to help you! We can take a look at your account and your school’s account and let you know if a charge seems accidental. We can also let you know the status of any payment or help explain dates of service, autopay, or other aspects of a charge/payment that might be confusing. We will work with you to make sure you fully understand what is going on and whether or not there is an issue.
  • If you accidentally submitted a payment and the status is now “pending” you should let your school know & then wait for the payment to complete. Once you submit a payment and it is pending there is no way for brightwheel or your school to stop it. After the payment has cleared, your school can refund it.

What to do if there is a payment disagreement:

  • Talk to your school. Your school is going to need to be involved to help sort out any disagreements. They also likely have a significant interest in working with you to come to a good resolution. Share your situation or concerns with the school and be clear about what a successful outcome would look like for you. 
  • Submit a support request with BW. If there is a problem, we can talk you through your options  - what we can do, what your school can do, and what you can do if that’s not enough. We will even help you reach out to your school so we can all work together until the issue is resolved.
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