The Third Party Billing unit of ASR has the important and weighty responsibility of billing and collecting millions in tuition and fees each year. In 2011, the team's three members managed $45 million on behalf of roughly 12,000 students. Their work is aptly described by the unit's name: they bill and collect student tuition that is paid by a third party. A third party at the University is considered an organization (not owned by the student or a family member) that makes a commitment to pay the student's educational expenses and requires direct billing. A single individual is rarely a third party sponsor. The unit also processes tuition payments for departments on campus that would like to charge one of their accounts.
The largest third party sponsor for the University is Target. Each term, the company pays up to $2 million in tuition for its employees. Most are students in the Carlson School of Management pursuing advanced business degrees. Other big sponsors are the Evans Scholars Foundation in Evanston, Illinois, and the Embassy of Malaysia.
One of the most difficult tasks the team handles is billing several locations of the Armed Forces. Students that are part of ROTC, active duty, the reserves, or the National Guard often have part or all of their tuition paid for, but it's not always easy for Third Party Billing. "It is very difficult to comply with University, Armed Forces, and Department of Defense policies," Accounts Supervisor Sheila Rhody said. "Billing is entered into several systems, and payment is always delinquent." In addition to slow payments, the Armed Forces prefers to pay with a credit card, which the University does not accept due to the additional fees assessed by the credit card companies.
To help document retention and organization, the team plans to join the University's imaging system soon. Right now, it's a huge task to keep track of everything. With so many sponsors and money at stake, the unit is anxious for a more efficient and easier way of managing their work.
The team has a wide range of experience. Sheila has been working for the Third Party Billing unit for 13 years; Doreen Knuston, Office Support Assistant, for 20 years; and Dawn Demaske, Principal Accounts Specialist, for three years. Sheila considers the variety a positive for the team. "It has given us fresh perspective on how to improve processes and assess how we're doing, in addition to experience," she said. They handle the workflow as it comes, working closely as a team and addressing each situation as it occurs. They also meet monthly with Associate director Tom Schmidt to discuss agenda items and any unit concerns.
It can be a demanding job, but the staff keeps it all in perspective. "The best part is helping a student obtain his or her third party funding and knowing you made it easier for them." Sheila said.
Third Party Billing staff:
Sheila Rhody, Accounts Supervisor
Doreen Knutson, Office Support Assistant
Dawn Demaske, Principal Accounts Specialist