An education revolution is underway, where short courses and micro-credentials are supplementing or even supplanting traditional degrees and diplomas1. What this means for SME education and training providers, is a golden opportunity to strengthen their course offerings to plug the skills gap that industries are now experiencing. And get more competitive in the marketplace by offering a tailored Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) payment plan to grow enrolments.
It is particularly important in the online environment, where the appetite for learning continues to rise, thanks to the pandemic, which provoked career re-evaluations and accelerated take-up.
At the same time, a shift in skill requirements in the workplace is driving an enormous amount of reskilling and upskilling. For example, in the IT industry, where many courses are not officially accredited, relying on industry acceptance rather than official recognition.
People are experimenting with lifelong learning
According to a new ABS study on work-related training and adult learning, nearly half of Australian adults (7.8 million people) undertake some form of education or training each year.
And 5.1 million people last year undertook courses that led to no formal recognition, compared to one in five people (3.8 million) who studied for a formal qualification such as a degree, diploma or certificate.
As Kristine Dery from Macquarie Business School explains, the availability of short courses and micro-credentials at affordable prices are now enabling people to experiment more than they ever did in the past2.
Unlock capital, increase enrolments
However, the ABS study reveals that just over 7% of Australians aged 15-74 years wanted to do work-related or personal interest courses in the last 12 months but could not. The main barrier to non-formal learning was having too much work or not enough time (38%), followed by ‘other reasons’ (25%) and financial reasons (18%).
As such, BNPL financing like Study Now Pay Later by ZeeFi is a win for both education providers and students, where educators get fast access to working capital, and students overcome the financial barrier impeding their career aspirations.
Paying education providers upfront to unlock working capital; bearing the risk of customer payment defaults to give you peace of mind; and doing all the heavy lifting in managing and collecting repayments, so they can focus on delivering quality education.
Not all BNPL providers are created equal
While the BNPL financing model has matured to include industries beyond retail, the media has highlighted issues around lack of transparency, deficient credit checks and poor customer outcomes by some BNPL providers.
Questions to ask when selecting a BNPL partner
1. Do you specialise in education and training finance?
Specialisation means having a purpose-built B2B solution that accommodates the payment nuances of one niche – education and training. It means deeper understanding. And it means agility to adjust the platform and processes as the industry evolves.
2. Do you offer a range of payment solutions?
One size doesn’t fit all. An industry specialist provider should have a full suite of financial solutions to cater to your unique needs, for example, alternate options, portfolio management and cash advances. Customisation is key.
3. Do you undertake credit checks?
We want successful outcomes for both education providers and students. Your payment plan must be sustainable for the student and credit checks are crucial as part of the application process. Nobody wins if a student drops out due to his/her inability to meet repayments.
4. Are your approval and collection processes fully automated?
Empathy and the human touch are critical to student success. More than just a well-oiled finance platform that is fast and efficient, good customer service must involve humans who are available, who can have real conversations using a tailored process that is sensitive to the needs of students and the reputation of the education provider.
5. Can you manage all our student repayment plans?
Education providers often have historical payment plans which require internal resources to administer. The ability to outsource the risk and management of your entire payment portfolio means more time for you to focus on delivering excellent learning outcomes.
1 ‘Shorter courses lead the revolution in education sector’, The Australian Financial Review, 11 March 2022.
2 ‘Lockdowns led to a boom in online learning, much of it work related’, The Australian Financial Review, 13 March 2022.
By Adam Olding, ZeeFi CEO