U.S. Universities Facing More Than $285 Million in Card Transaction Fees From International Tuition Payments

Press Release By Western Union Published OnJuly 31, 2017
  • Survey among 100 U.S. university admissions teams reveals international tuition payments made by credit card incur an average 1.14 percent transaction fee.
  • With approximately one million international students in the U.S., the collective bill for universities could be over $285 million a year for public universities and even more for private institutions.
  • Around 43 business days may be lost each school year to university staff matching, processing and reconciling overseas payments – almost a third of available work days.*

ENGLEWOOD, Colo.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– U.S. universities could be facing more than $285 million credit card transaction charges every year while receiving and processing tuition payments from international students, according to new research* from Western Union, a leader in global money transfer and payments services.

In addition to the monetary cost, the survey found that nearly eleven and a half hours a week are lost to matching, processing and reconciling payments from international students – the equivalent of 43 business days or just under one-third of total work hours during a typical 30-week American university school year.*

Western Union’s research, which surveyed 100 finance and admissions teams at universities across the U.S., found that nearly half (44 percent) said the charges incurred from payments is the biggest challenge their institution faces when processing international tuition fees, while nearly a third of those surveyed (35 percent) said the time spent and human resources required to process overseas payments was their biggest challenge when receiving international tuition fees.

With the higher education landscape becoming increasingly globalized and the number of international students in the U.S. reaching new heights, there is a pressing need for a more efficient approach to processing tuition payments. Last year, the number of international students studying in the U.S. reached a tipping point, surpassing one million for the first time in history, according to the Institute of International Education.

With such anticipated growth in international student populations, universities will likely be faced with more costly transaction charges and an increasingly cumbersome administrative burden. However, one-fifth (21 percent) of those surveyed do not feel their institutions are fully prepared to accept payments from international students. Furthermore, despite the growing popularity of e-wallets and alternative payment methods, only one in ten (10 percent) cited that their institutions offer these options to students – demonstrating a distinct lack of adoption within the industry.

“Managing payments from international students can be a complex and time-consuming process for U.S. universities,” said Western Union President of Global Payments Jean-Claude Farah. “This new research shows the real challenge faced by universities and colleges. In addition to the charges they may incur, many also lose valuable staff time matching and processing payments made by a variety of methods depending on the student’s country of origin.

“With funding and resources an ongoing concern for universities across the U.S. and international students becoming a more significant income stream, having access to an efficient and cost-effective process to accept payments from around the globe has never been more important,” Farah said.

Western Union recently launched its enhanced GlobalPay for Students platform, which has been developed to improve the way universities reconcile, refund and track payments from international students, allowing clients to receive payments from multiple platforms and view all payment activity on one dashboard. The platform is designed to help universities simplify the reconciliation of incoming international payments, which can be a complex and time-consuming process. The mobile-first interface has also been developed with student input to improve the user experience.

To further enhance and simplify the payment experience for students and universities in the U.S., Western Union has also announced a partnership with TouchNet. The agreement will deliver an integrated payment solution to colleges and universities whose international students wish to make campus payments using their home currency at competitive exchange rates. This new solution helps campuses simplify the payments process, and automatically updates student records once funds are settled to the institution’s bank account.

Notes to editors


  • Based on 1.14 percent average transaction fee on payment made by credit card.
  • Calculations based on an average annual tuition fees of $25,000 and $33,500 (at public and private universities, respectively) and one million plus international students studying in the U.S. for the 2015-2016 academic year – student numbers from Institute of International Education (IIE), tuition cost from The College Board
  • Time spent calculated based on an eight- hour day during a standard school year (two 15-week semesters) – 43 work days are lost out of a possible 150.
  • The study was conducted by OnePoll June 9-22, 2017, and polled U.S. adults with finance and admissions responsibilities in universities/higher education institutions. Participants were recruited online and were paid to participate.

About Western Union

The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU) is a leader in global payment services. Together with its Vigo, Orlandi Valuta, Pago Facil and Western Union Business Solutions branded payment services, Western Union provides consumers and businesses with fast, reliable and convenient ways to send and receive money around the world, to send payments and to purchase money orders. As of March 31, 2017, the Western Union, Vigo and Orlandi Valuta branded services were offered through a combined network of over 550,000 agent locations in 200 countries and territories and over 150,000 ATMs and kiosks, and included the capability to send money to billions of accounts. In 2016, The Western Union Company completed 268 million consumer-to-consumer transactions worldwide, moving $80 billion of principal between consumers, and 523 million business payments. For more information, visit www.westernunion.com.


Source: The Western Union Company

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