Embracing Mobile Payment Solutions in Higher Ed

Square mobile payment readerWe’ve been watching mobile and tablet payment solutions for years as people with an interest in technology, but it’s interesting to watch it show up more in everyday life. Products from companies like Square and PayPal are removing barriers for businesses and non-profits when it comes to accepting payments.

The barbershop where my boys and I get our haircut, uses Square readers to process payments (and set appointments, but that’s a separate post.) My son’s cub scout troop has a reader to process payments for events and popcorn sales. The food truck we brought to our campus last year accepted cards via Square.

These technologies and accessible and affordable, but are we embracing them as well as we should in higher ed?

I can understand not accepting mobile payments for something like tuition, but there are a myriad of other opportunities we can take advantage of.

Student Life

This area of our campuses is ready for mobile payments. Coffee and quick-stop dining options could use mobile payments to improve checkout speed and serve more customers.

I think there’s also opportunity here to do mobile payments for events and student activities programming. IANASAP1, but I would think allowing people to show up at an event, activity, show, or lecture and pay at the door as opposed to making students pre-register or pre-purchase tickets/passes. This could improve attendance and ultimately drive revenue.


As I mentioned before, I don’t see many institutions being ready to take tuition payments via a tablet or phone, there’s no reason we can’t do things like accept admission deposits at open house and other special events. I think this would be very convenient for families who are ready to make a decision — they wouldn’t have to shuffle off to an office or other bursar office, they could sign, swipe, and head to the bookstore to buy a new sweatshirt.

Speaking of bookstores…


I realize the majority of campus bookstores are not run or managed by the University, but there’s no reason they can’t streamline checkout processes in times of  heavy demand, such as the start of the semester when long lines for book purchases happen.

Mobile payments would also allow bookstores to do things like open pop-up shops or other temporary merchandise stalls during large or special campus events – think Homecoming, Reunion, open houses, big sporting events, and so on.

Alumni and Fundraising

This one’s definitely low hanging fruit. I could see this making life easier for not only alums attending an event, but for alumni staff. I know how hard the alumni team at my last institution worked on events, and think this could help many smaller teams tasked with doing more and more events across the country.

This would be helpful for events, sure, but it could also be a very easy tool for giving, not just for alumni events (where it could do well if promoted well), but also other giving populations, such as senior class giving and parents, the latter of which are mostly solicited via paper and email.

If I was at an event, and could give $5 or $10 right there with my credit card, I would. I also don’t think this would dip into other giving, major or annual. It would be a nice supplemental revenue stream.

I saw this infographic recently with some more thoughts on mobile payment processing. While not higher ed specific, it does give a nice overview of the landscape of this industry and provides some data points.


Tablet POS Systems

1 – I am not a student affairs professional.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.