In our first Q&A session with TuitionEP founders, we discuss the birth of the app now known as TuitionEP as well as their vision and goals moving forward.
RL: Our kids were in a private school and the school kept asking for us to write a check for their tuition. That process made both of us stressed because we really hadn't written checks in about four or five years. We went out to dinner with friends and I was just like, man, this would be valuable for schools. We work a lot with schools, both higher ed and secondary, and it just made sense that schools need something to help this process. This process should not be difficult. Payments should be able to be made through the phone or through a computer easily and securely.
GL: We were inspired by the need we saw as parents to pay tuition or any fee for our kids school and any afternoon activities classes, easier -- from our phones!
RL: We've seen schools struggle with not just payment collection, but also having parents frustrated with the process. So the goal is to make the schools not have to worry about the drama of parents honoring their enrollment on contracts, and also for the parents to have full transparency that they're not being charged ridiculous amounts of fees. They're actually being charged exactly what's in their agreed terms.
RL: TEP 1.0 was really geared to do the minimum of what was needed to collect tuition payments. It evolved quickly and that budgeting process became part of our task, as the school was losing money because they were charging exactly what it was for the field trip or even less. In one case, we had a school that each class did over 20 field trips per year. So being good hearted for one class, times 10 classes or 12 classes equals an exuberant amount of money that was just being wasted. So we made it where it's easy to pay online, but you know, the parents just swipe and the school can load in the field trip and childcare as well. That's a whole different addition we added on was childcare, before or after care. And that was not initially in the build.
GL: I mean, we have less tickets! We're doing something right. When there's less support tickets, that means it's going well. There's less mistakes by the user, the parent or the school. So that's the beauty of what we built, is it's intuitive, we don't need to help as much because they get just it.
RL: There's three main problems that the app solves. Number one is the ease of use and transparency. And I know those are kind of two things, but they correlate; it's so easy for a parent to see what they've paid and what they owe. The transparency is there in that here's my enrollment contract, here's what I've paid. It's so easy that it also adds to the transparency between the school and the parent.
The second thing is it takes a lot of the burden off of the bookkeepers, the financial director of the accountants, because the parents can self-serve. They can download a quick statement, they can submit a ticket if they have a question.
The third thing is it creates a buffer. I have seen schools where their front office says, oh, this parent is avoiding us because they have to pay last month's tuition. And it's sad. That's not the way it should be. But unfortunately, families go through financially hard times, so it's understandable. The app takes that totally out of the environment. It removes it from the physical space of the school. It's not a person, it's an app.
RL: There's a lot of great established companies out there that have been doing this for 30 years, but they haven't updated their technology in like a decade. Many times, in order to update their technology, their architecture is built where they'd have to almost start over and that would be brutal for a school. So in a sense, they're doing band-aids and patches on apps and platforms. Some apps we see on the stores that literally they have more 1.4 stars, and yet it's a company that, you know, they've been around for forever.
GL: I think TEP is setting the standard as far as design and user experience. A lot of these softwares are just so clunky and ugly, just not easy to use. And it's just like, where do I go to see my statement? Where do I pay? Where's the calendar? And if they're dated in their design and user experience, are they also dated in their security? That's why we wanted to bring in the full package. Yes, you can pay in a secure, easy way, but it's also beautiful.
RL: TEP has kind of grown from a design agency that Gloria and I started and we kind of took a lot of the core values and principles we had with energyhill and infused them into TEP, but we had a fresh start. You can kind of look back at, oh, we did that wrong. We did this wrong, we did that wrong, you know, and then also, Ooh, we did a lot of this really, really good. Let's make sure we carry that through. And as far as our team, you know, I might be biased, but I've worked with fantastic agencies, not just locally, regionally, but also globally. And I do think we have the best team in the world.
GL: It might be difficult to scale it, like how can we keep that vision in place with people working remote? If we have someone in Michigan who's a great designer, how are we going to bring that person into the culture? That's so difficult. But I think we've established a pretty good culture already so I'm confident it can carry over. I think we can do it.
RL: To become one of the premium tuition payment platforms in the world.
GL: For TEP to become a recognized brand and the preferred app/software for tuition payment for schools in the US.