How Universities Can Maximize Travel & Expense Management

By Jessica Sillers

Students may be getting into summer vacation mode, but higher education institutions are already deep in preparations for the next school year. Colleges and universities juggle complex expense management needs at any time. They need to be able to handle research grants, conference travel, study abroad programs, athletic program travel, and more.

After more than a year of pandemic, higher ed is also focused on how to integrate in-person and remote learning, and the challenges and expenses that go along with it. Colleges and universities need travel and expense management software that’s flexible enough to keep up with this wide range of needs.

Higher Ed Challenges and Opportunities for 2021

The pandemic forced many colleges and universities to adapt to virtual learning…virtually overnight. While many higher ed institutions are rightfully proud of their faculty and students’ ability to adapt, we can’t say it’s been easy. Faculty used to an in-person classroom had to think on their feet to create an engaging, robust experience over video. Some students were so disappointed to miss out on the campus experience that they protested their tuition.

All this to say, getting back to campus is a huge priority. Many higher education institutions faced substantial costs to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, while simultaneously losing some expected tuition, housing, and other funds. Colleges and universities need ways to monitor and manage COVID-19-related expenses as they re-open programs.

The good news is virtual learning adaptations may improve accessibility for some students, and many colleges are building systems to manage risk and welcome students back safely. The right software tools can help balance these needs, promoting accurate recording and minimizing overspend and errors.

Top Travel and Expense Management Features for Higher Education

Your management of resources is a critical way to demonstrate your campus values and support the entire campus community in a return to in-person teaching and learning. Colleges and universities are looking for solutions that streamline normal campus operations as well as navigate emerging priorities smoothly.

Low-cost software

As you assess enrollment and resources, it’s more important than ever to manage costs effectively and control spend. Investing in software solutions should overall help reduce overspend and increase cost savings. It should also fit your existing budget.

Easy to add and remove users

Higher education institutions need to be able to update user rosters easily, to reflect situations like incoming athletes and adjunct or visiting professors accurately. A system only works well if it’s user-friendly enough to aid compliance.

Emphasize automation

A college or university comprises many programs and departments. Tech automation helps improve efficiency as you handle travel expenses for faculty, student athletes, academic departments, student life programs, and more.

Easy per diem options

Supporting traveling athletes with a per diem when they travel is part of having a competitive team, but preventing overspend and handling reimbursements can be challenging. TravelBank has partnered with U.S. Bank Instant Card, a modern solution that allows organizations to set spending limits and integrates seamlessly with the expense management software for convenient documentation.

Easier auditing

Colleges and universities may need to balance a new model of in-person and virtual resources. Keep organized so you’re prepared for easy auditing and transparent financial oversight.

Benefits of Improved Expense and Travel Management

A college or university can feel like an entire city all to itself. A student athlete needs resources to gain an education and a competitive career. A tenure-track professor needs to travel for conferences or research opportunities. Campus facilities need updated equipment, from computers and microscopes to pianos and dorm furnishing. Using a well-integrated expense and travel management solution like TravelBank can result in multiple benefits.

Improved visibility into transactions

Faculty, staff, and students can submit receipts from anywhere using their mobile phone, leading to more accurate, real-time expense reporting. Reviewing per diem expenses from multiple concurrent trips is easier when travelers can update along the way instead of delaying reports until after their return. Finance managers can reimburse travelers more quickly or step in to notify a traveler of possible overspend before it becomes a larger problem.

Greater cost savings

You might not know expense budgets off-hand, like how much each dorm building is allotted to spend on PPE or rapid test supplies for COVID-19 safety. A clear expense management system helps managers compare budget to current spend. At a time when it may be more important than ever to maximize savings, transparent, up-to-date reporting is one of your best tools.

Improved organization

Collecting and organizing manual reports from each department and program leads to a college that’s constantly behind on expense tracking. One study found that business travelers spend 40 hours a month reconciling expense data!

The more you can automate and streamline processes in travel and expense management, the more effectively you can use everyone’s time, from travelers and faculty to the finance professionals preparing final reports. Software solutions can improve organization to cut down on errors and prepare you for smoother audits, as well.

Returning to campus post-pandemic is a new kind of learning experience for everyone. Starting with tools that help you manage travel and other expenses effectively can make the difference and help your higher education institution continue to excel.

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