Helping Families Afford Education – Stories from an Education Payment Advisor

"You are going to be dealing with every family's two most valued things: their children and their money."

Money & FamilyThis was one of the first sentences my training instructor told me, and it is the statement that stands out the most when I think about my job as an Education Payment Advisor.

Until that moment, I hadn't realized what an essential role I would be playing in the lives of families. From that moment onwards, I committed myself to paying attention to every word the training instructor said. My pen was constantly touching paper as I rushed to copy down every term and program we were taught. After eight hours of training every day, I would emerge from Tuition Management Systems drained and exhausted. After returning home, I always recited the terms & conditions for payments to my family and then shared all the information I had learned that day. Ultimately, after three weeks of vigorous and intensive training, I was officially an Education Payment Advisor and was placed at my own desk with my own phone.

A day of working as an Education Payment Advisor isn't complete without having a variety of entertaining calls. Each call requires friendly yet professional attention and assistance. I have received calls that have made me smile, laugh, cry, and some that made me want to hide in the bathroom for the rest of my shift.

In my experience as an Education Payment Advisor, one-third of callers know what they are doing and just want reassurance. Another one-third of callers have used TMS services before and are just adjusting their accounts. And the last third of callers have absolutely no idea what they are doing. I find the latter to be my personal favorite. I empathize with these callers, meandering through the world of education unknowing and unsure. I explain everything, and ensure that I have answered each of their questions clearly and accurately. Although these calls may take an extra five minutes of my time, it is important to me that each family understands what they are committing to. (Help your families past potential payment panic!) 

Education is a high-involvement commitment that combines research, careful planning, and oftentimes assistance. As an Education Payment Advisor, I am committed to providing families with the assistance needed to the best of my ability. There is no feeling more rewarding than when a family tells me that I have been an instrumental part of their success in understanding and paying for education. At times, it can be more challenging than normal to assist customers. However, when I hang up after those difficult phone calls, I feel proud that I found a way to assist the customer.

Countless people call every day, desperately hoping that we can be the solution to their problems. They are often worried and upset that they may not be able to attend school because they cannot afford tuition up front. When our Payment Plan can be the solution to a family's problems, it is exciting for both the customer and me. As soon as I break down a plan for a family, I can hear the excitement and relief in their voices as they agree that this is a great option for them. On the other hand, sometimes callers do not feel as if a Payment Plan is an option for them. At that point, they become frustrated with me and do not understand that I cannot alter any plans to fit their specific situation. This is difficult, because I wish I could help everyone. Oftentimes, these prove to be some of the most challenging calls since I have offered everything I can.

There are kind, courteous, and understanding customers that call every day. However not every customer makes my job simple and easy, whether they intend to or not. This leads to tough phone calls, which I handle by remaining patient, understanding, and willing to help.

I will never forget one such difficult time, when my understanding of the Spanish language saved the day. I had answered a phone call from a college student with a Payment Plan, who wanted to make his monthly payment with his mother's credit card that he was not a cosigner for. While halfway through reading the terms & conditions of the payment to the student's mother, she handed the phone back to her son. I explained to the student that the only way I could process the payment is if I read the terms & conditions to the cardholder, and received verbal confirmation from her. He told me that his mother only understood a bit of English, and his payment needed to be made that day. I offered to walk them through making the payment online, but he said they didn't have a computer and she didn't understand our automated phone system. Thus, the only option I had was to take the payment over the phone. After noticing that the TMS Spanish representatives were busy, and being halfway through the payment, I thought of the next option I could try. The only other option I had was speaking Spanish.

I opened a document on my computer that had the Spanish translation of the terms & conditions, and I carefully recited it to the student's mother. After she agreed to the terms & conditions, she thanked me and spoke to the student in quick Spanish as she passed the phone to him. Once he picked up the phone, he thanked me profusely for being so understanding and helpful. He said that his mother was extremely grateful that I was willing to accommodate to her needs. After I hung up, I couldn't help but smile as I remembered how appreciative the student and his mother were.

Throughout my experience as an Education Payment Advisor at Tuition Management Systems, I have answered hundreds of phone calls. These phone calls have made me reflect on my own experiences with paying for college while also teaching me about other family's situations. Although there have been callers that have frustrated me, antagonized me, and made me cry, there is nothing more gratifying than helping a worried customer realize that they can afford the education they deserve.

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