While financial management as espoused by schools, employs generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) through accounting degree programs, accounting practices differ from institution to institution and more so in corporate settings. It can be more complex and even complicated than your garden-variety SME accounting. Revenue streams can come from myriad sources, ranging from investments and grants to donations and sports merchandise across different departments and operations.
In fact, from SY 2019 to 2020, a good 29% of public postsecondary institutions’ revenue is categorized as “other” (National Center for Education Statistics, 2022a). This shows that a significant amount of income is not from what most would consider conventional sources. Additionally, the degree of autonomy given to some of these programs such as sports and other extracurricular programs adds to the complexity.
The varied applications make bookkeeping difficult, directly affecting the ease of planning overall policy and making long-term strategic decisions. Fortunately, there are robust and easy-to-use school accounting software platforms today that are more than enough for the task.
In this article, you will get to know a lot of the best school accounting software, what they do for educational institutions, and get some tips on how to choose the best one that fits your organization’s needs.
Financial management and accounting for schools is not a walk in the park. Aside from its stark differences with business accounting, it is also conducted differently per institution type. Standard accounting practices exist for everybody to follow, but educational institutions like school districts may have different accounting and reporting needs. This is because the stakeholder makeup can be very different. Each school or district may have different “data user groups” with different preferences (Institute of Education Science, 2015). Hence, they often use different tools and methodologies that apply to their particular requirements. Such is the reason why many of them opt to commission the development of their own software solutions.
This, however, can run into some problems and it costs a great deal of time and money. Firstly, on average, it takes around 1,500 to 2,500 hours to develop a generic accounting software solution (Cherednichenko, 2021). This does not include testing and onboarding. Secondly, depending on the complexity, an accounting software solution can cost from $35,000 to $80,000 to develop. Also, if a solution is made from scratch and is totally your own, no precedents will be available for self-service knowledge. And, there will be no possibility for community support.
On the other hand, off-the-shelf accounting platforms typically have lower initial costs to adopt. Moreover, SaaS solutions are very flexible in terms of scale and customizability. Adopting one can virtually be equal to getting one developed especially for you. This is why many educational institutions have been switching to SaaS solutions.
Before heading to our list of the 20 best school accounting software for schools, let us first touch on some important preliminaries. In the next few sections, we will discuss some pain points that school accounting software can help you with. Additionally, we will list and briefly discuss general considerations when making a software purchase decision. This will, hopefully, help you make a better, more informed decision.
Different types and levels of educational institutions have varying accounting requirements. First of all, they need to be compliant with accepted standards, laws, and other regulations pertaining to them. Secondly, as mentioned, every institution has different publics or “data user groups (Institute of Education Science, 2015)” with different needs and purposes for accounting information. Hence, institutions require both standardized and custom tools to cater to both these needs.
In this section, we are going to look at key school accounting statistics to illustrate the complexity of fulfilling the aforementioned requirements. We will paint a picture that school accounting, at any level, needs to be both flexible and robust—to be able to deal with dynamic changes while complying with standards and regulations. From there, you will see that the digital tools for school accounting must also mirror these qualities and enable organizations to carry out their operations in such a fashion these qualities permit.
No rigid off-the-shelf accounting solution can be a good accounting solution for schools, especially postsecondary academic institutions. When you look at degree-granting postsecondary institutions of different types of control, you will see that they vary, on average, in terms of their revenue sources (NCES, 2022a).
Private for-profit institutions from 2019 to 2020 earned 93% of their revenue from tuition and fees. Only 2% came from government grants, contracts, and appropriations. On the other hand, public postsecondary institutions generated only 20% of their revenue from tuition and fees. A good 43% came from government grants, contracts, and appropriations; 6% from auxiliary enterprises; 3% from investments; and 29% from what is categorized as “all other revenues.” This is nearly a third of all revenue coming from streams that could not be put into a more general category.
Source: NCES, 2022a
This shows that, at the level of postsecondary education, organizations can have a wide variety of service structures that could not be dealt with by a rigid one-size-fits-all methodology. Conversely, it cannot be taken care of by using a rigid non-customizable off-the-shelf accounting solution. When it comes to expenses, the same situation stands. The type and share of expenditures differ on average as well.
For instance, for private for-profit institutions, 67% of expenses go to academic support, student services, and institutional support (NCES, 2022b). In contrast, public institutions, on average, only allot around 20% for spending on the same general category. Moreover, public and private nonprofit educational institutions, on average, have special expenditures that private for-profit ones tend to not have or tend to spend little on. Research and public service make up around 16% of the expenditures of public institutions. Another 16% go to hospital services. Private nonprofits, on average, have 12% of their overall expenditures on research and public service and about 15% go to hospital services.
Source: NCES, 2022b
Additionally, these revenues and expenditures are also spread out across schools, colleges, and departments. Hence, consolidating these figures for compliance, reporting, and data-driven strategic decision-making would be intractable without a solution that can bring all of these together.
The issue of accounting for sprawling activities and finances is a matter of compliance and providing a better vantage point for making data-driven strategic decisions. The need is more pronounced in policymaking concerning public primary and secondary education. This is because policymakers use financial data from schools and programs to (Institute of Education Sciences, 2015):
For instance, the data on the national average revenue shares of public schools are regularly getting consolidated. Most recently, it was found that in SY 2018 to 2019, federal sources of public school revenue only accounted for 7.9% of the total with California ($8.05B), Texas ($7.28B), and Florida ($3.54B) getting the highest allocations among states (NCES, 2021). These, together with other data sets and projections, will be used to inform policies and budget decisions moving forward.
Source: NCES, 2021
This is no easy task given that as of 2020, there are 98,469 public schools in the country—from kindergarten to high school (NCES, 2022c). Software solutions are integral in helping educational institutions quickly consolidate information from different data pools to generate these important reports. This is why school accounting software platforms are very important.
In fact, school districts or state education agencies develop cost reporting software solutions to interface with existing systems as, many times, the data needed are already in a district’s data systems (Institute of Education Sciences, 2015). These include school administration systems and library management software solutions. The integration allows schools and districts to quickly and accurately provide accurate data for analyses required for good policymaking. These include how salaries were allocated to schools and programs served by teachers. Another is computing indirect costs such as those for used space by linking a teacher’s assigned classrooms to facilities data about the square footage of classrooms (Institute for Education Sciences, 2015).
Computing for direct and indirect costs can be fairly complex, necessitating advanced methods and tools. It gets complicated when some of the pooled data come in archaic formats such as electronic spreadsheets and loose paper; more so when they are sourced from programs jointly managed by students. This could be about accounting for activity funds for the art club, photography club, athletics activities, and special field trips, among others.
So, to expedite and make the whole process simpler, a good school accounting software solution is in order—more so if you could acquire the best school accounting software among the lot.
Admittedly, the best school accounting software should provide users with advanced data handling, analytics, and reporting tools complete with easy-to-understand visualizations. These are very intuitive and lend well to non-experts and novice users.
But as they are many, how could you find the right one for you? For that, here are things to consider when going after the best school accounting software for your institution.
Integration. As educational institutions already have software systems in place, it is best to adopt a school accounting solution that can integrate with the apps they are using. These include student management systems, learning management systems, library management systems, and the like. In this way, accountants and administrative staff can easily pull data from these sources in real-time for reports whenever they need to. Moreover, choose one that supports different file formats and works well with spreadsheet software. In this way, you will be able to easily import and export data when needed.
Custom Reporting and Compliance. It is imperative for a school accounting solution to have a good reporting module that can create custom reports, metrics, and analytics procedures. Customization is crucial, especially for compliance as education boards and agencies may have custom category codes, standards, and reporting formats. Fortunately, many software platforms are flexible enough for this. Also, there are tools that have state-specific compliance features.
Scalability. Look for a platform that can easily scale as your school grows. You should be able to add new items and categories such as new activity funds, revenue streams, and expenditures, among others. You should also consider the capability to add new users and credentials as the number of your staff increases. Also, this feature would be useful should you wish to provide limited access to club sponsors or student club leaders to make financial data updates easier.
Ease-of-Use. Today, most SaaS solutions come with high out-of-the-box usability. In fact, an important goal of these solutions is to make complex and complicated processes easily understandable and manageable for non-experts. Most, if not all, of the software products listed here are very easy to use.
Training and Support. Remember that when buying software, especially SaaS platforms, you are not just purchasing the product itself. You are also signing up for a partnership with the software provider. Hence, you should take the time to find out whether your software provider offers good customer support and technical training, has a comprehensive knowledge base, and is proactive in terms of providing updates and fixing bugs if any. A good share of the overall experience with your software is your experience with the software provider. So, make sure that you partner with an honest and hardworking company. Furthermore, it is also a plus if you choose a product with an active community or user base. In this way, you will have an additional avenue for knowledge and technical help.
Cost. This, of course, is a very important factor when choosing the right accounting software for your educational institution. You can only pick the product or subscription plan that fits your budget’s needs. So, when looking at different software products, make sure that you take note of the features and capabilities of the specific plans that you can afford. In this way, you will not have the wrong expectations and may incur losses as some plans have lock-in periods. Fortunately, especially in this list, there are many software providers that offer their solutions via quote-based plans. Hence, you will have a hand on which features are included in your version and pay only for the modules you need.
So, without much further ado, the next section lists down the 20 best school accounting software solutions available today. Hopefully, this narrows down your choices and you can find the right one that fits your needs.
AptaFund features a configurable dashboard where you can put up any metrics or KPIs you want. Each employee can do this so they can focus on the things that matter to them. It can help them complete their daily tasks faster, as they have easy access to relevant data. Plus, with important numbers easily on hand, they can generate custom reports at the start of or end of the day rapidly.
Moreover, the dashboard serves as the gateway to other school fund accounting modules. Users can check accounts payable, bank reconciliation data, cash receipts, payroll, and more from there.
Edsembli is a finance solution for schools inspired by school districts. It is designed to overcome roadblocks in the administration, particularly when it comes to financial management. With this, your school system can modernize your funds tracking. On top of that, you can easily allocate funds to different projects and transfer the necessary budget.
Moreover, the integrated platform can communicate seamlessly with schools. This is possible through third-party integrations. Additionally, it allows synchronization with other systems you might have in your tech stack. With this enhanced connectivity, you can ensure the smooth flow of financial processes across the board.
Tuition Express, as its name suggests, is all about tuition collection. But it is different from other payment processing solutions. It has touchless payment options like electronic fund transfers and automated payments. As well, it offers point-of-sale transactions, as one would in a restaurant or a retail store.
Procare’s Tuition Express is trusted by many child care services and schools mainly due to its convenience and tight security. Parents can pay using their laptops or devices. They can even do so as soon as they check in their children at the child care center.
TES Software’s MySchoolAccounting is known for its intuitive and user-friendly interface. It enables users to conduct their daily activities with ease and with little support. But when they do need assistance, they can get in touch with the tech support team quickly. The vendor also offers in-depth training for staff to use the platform effectively.
With MySchoolAccounting, you can rest assured that you are meeting and even exceeding accounting standards. Users can also look forward to perfecting the balancing act with real-time payment posting. It simplifies the processing and accounting of funds as well.
SchoolBanks is a software that goes beyond payment processing for schools. Districts can appreciate this because it is an integrated solution. That means it includes the necessary tools to streamline payment collection, accounting, and bookkeeping. These are all simple tools that are easy to use so that users can operate it with confidence.
It is an out-of-the-box solution that you can set up in as fast as 30 minutes. Because of this, your accounting department can start utilizing it immediately. Even with large districts, full implementation is possible quickly. Indeed, every school in the area can start employing it in under a week.
TUIO promises to simplify administrative tasks. To that end, it helps schools in processing billing and payments. The platform includes an online student registration portal as well as a student information system. On top of that, it provides users with a custom reporting suite. All of these you can access from a single place.
Users have remarked that TUIO is user-friendly. It is easy to navigate despite being a powerful system. Even parents like how it is laid out, as they can transact online with ease.
MultiviewERP is a powerful data-centric platform. It helps finance teams achieve efficiency through automation and real-time access to data. To that end, it provides core accounting modules like General Ledger, Accounts Payable, and Accounts Receivable.
It supports intelligent decision-making as well with a business insights module. This includes budgeting and forecasting as well as business intelligence. Added to the mix is an inventory management toolset that can help in overseeing asset investments. And to top it all off, you can expect business automation features to help in streamlining processes.
Ellucian provides a holistic view of your institution’s finances. With it, you have access to solutions for better budget and financial management. This means that you can make certain you spend money on the right contracts and set the right budgets. In this way, you can minimize risk as you build revenue.
Ellucian has dashboards, too. You can use those to track spending in real-time. Thus, you are better able to manage spending intelligently. Additionally, it ensures compliance in every process so your higher education institution does not transgress policies and procedures.
RYCOR, at its core, is a platform that is designed for full transparency of transactions. It ensures the efficiency of workflows across the board so that users can complete their tasks quickly and on point. The solution is also very convenient for district and school administrators because every tool is easily accessible. Best of all, it is convenient for parents as well when making payments or checking the fees of their children.
Moreover, it has an eForms solution. This lets you create payment forms, registration forms for summer and online classes, after-school clubs, and even permission forms and event ticketing. Parents and guardians can complete these forms online and submit documents or requirements through the same portal. As well, they can pay for the related fees through this. Because of that, teachers are relieved of at least one administrative burden.
Synergetic has more than 40 modules to choose from for a fully integrated school management. Among these are powerful financial management features that help you keep tabs on your school’s financial health. It includes a general ledger, a payroll management module, and purchase order management.
This platform even assists you in development projects such as fundraising activities and events. Additionally, it has a resource booking toolbox that allows you to put your school’s properties into good use. In line with that, it gives you asset management and contract management solutions.
PyanGo is a software with Oracle NetSuite Platform as its foundation. One of its main foci is to aid organization’s in controlling their expenses. To that end, it has proactive budget and spend management tools. In this way, your school can eliminate overages. Plus, it adds automation to the mix to remove pain points like redundant data entry.
Educational institutions can track funding from different sources with PyanGo. As well, it has the required tools for overseeing encumbrance accounting requirements. On top of that, it has a grant management solution for navigating the conditions set by grant-giving bodies.
Fedena is a college and school management software whose platform’s focus is automation in daily operations. Together with that, it aims to provide insightful reports for stakeholders. In this way, they can make quick and informed decisions for the institution.
This web-based ERP can collect fees on the school’s behalf. The process can even be automated. Plus, it automatically calculates tax on different types of transactions so you do not have to worry about configuring those. You can also set up fines on late fees and add those automatically for late fee payments.
Creatrix Campus is an ideal companion for campuses looking to modernize their operations. It offers a comprehensive student fee management solution. Because of that, institutions can automate fee processing for higher efficiency.
The system can also automate fee invoicing as well as reporting fees due. For the latter, finance administrators can generate them at any time. Meanwhile, students can enjoy better management of their fees since they can track dues for admission, library, and miscellaneous fees.
PraxiSchool is a one-stop school administration solution. When it comes to accounting, there is no need to have a separate platform. PraxiSchool has an integrated complete accounting module that is as robust as any. What’s more, it is designed with schools in mind. This is why you can find features that will make your institution’s accountants happy.
Furthermore, it offers convenience to parents and guardians. It allows for up to two payers per tuition account. In this way, either parent or guardian can pay for the child’s or children’s school fees.
Pappaya Ed is a campus management ERP software. Among the modules it offers is accounting, where you can find tools for sales, purchase, and finance management. It has an interactive dashboard where you can easily find pertinent financial data. With this, you can make business decisions smartly at a glance.
From its sales toolbox, you can find payment details. There is also a list of customers and customer invoices within reach. Meanwhile, its purchasing feature shows payment type, method, and amount as well as the supplier’s name. For its financial management, it has financial reports. You can create one based on a list or import reports from other systems.
Blackbaud Tuition Management is a smart platform for school billing. It is accessible and intuitive, which parents and guardians can appreciate. This convenient online access allows them to pay their children’s or wards’ fees whenever and wherever they are comfortable. Plus, they can choose from a wide array of payment options to make payment more conducive.
And in case of late bills, Blackbaud Tuition Management is there to assist. The system has a follow-up service that reminds parents or guardians to pay their late dues. With this prompt bill collection, you can look forward to a healthier cash flow.
Diamond Mind TuitionPay makes tuition management simple for both administration and families. It can integrate seamlessly with an educational institution’s website, making tuition payments painless. On top of that, payers can access affordable payment plans, should you choose to make them available.
In line with those, there are various payment methods to choose from. Diamond Mind TuitionPay can process credit and debit card payments as well as ACH/electronic checks. On the side of the school, administrators can review payments on a single pane. There are sorting options as well as filters available to make it easier to review payments.
Oasis School Accounting offers a flexible, modular school accounting platform. Because of its adaptability, you can build an ideal system for your institution. Currently, there are 10 modules you can choose from. You can mix and match to find the best solution.
Therefore, your accounting platform can be as comprehensive as you want. Or you can just get the basics. This allows you to stretch your budget, especially if yours is only a small school.
Sparkrock 365 combines finance, payroll, HR, and scheduling solutions in a comprehensive package. With this cloud-native application, you can enjoy the security and stability that you have become familiar with on Microsoft. That is because this platform is a Microsoft Gold partner.
When you work with Sparkrock 365, you can expect to solve challenges such as teams operating in silos. This ensures that they can generate simple reports with ease. This is possible because data is shared between teams, leading to complete visibility. With one single source of truth, administrations can make fully informed decisions and enjoy additional savings.
Curacubby makes billing and payment management simple. It can do these through online billing and invoicing. These are connected with an accounting system, thus reducing the amount of administrative work. You can also expect to have a healthier bottom line, as Curacubby can help you send payment reminders.
There is an online payment portal as well. That is where parents and guardians can take care of their children’s fees conveniently. And if you like, you can set up a rewards program to show your appreciation to parents who pay on time.
It is easy to dismiss the importance of a trustworthy accounting software for school. This is especially true for educational institutions that have small operations. It is a common pitfall for childcare services, too. They are lured into thinking that they do not need such fancy solutions because they can still do it the traditional way. Paper journals and ledgers and spreadsheets can work if you are only handling a handful of students—and have no plans of growing your school or service.
But if you are looking beyond the current state of your institution, investing in the best school accounting software will be a good idea. You can get a complete look at your financial health. Plus, you can figure out ways on how to save on costs without it affecting the quality of your service. In this way, you can have a healthier bottom line.
A big school with an existing accounting solution looking for a better option can enjoy the same benefits. On top of those, there are platforms that include convenient tools for parents like online tuition payments. As well, they can enjoy integrations with other solutions such as digital learning platforms.
Aptafund is an accounting software solution that can meet the rigorous demands of schools. It has a robust set of accounting tools that users will surely appreciate, as they can expedite their processes. And for those looking for a complete school administration system, Synergetic would be a good choice.
But whichever you go with, just make sure that accountants, administrators, and other users will appreciate your choice as well.