Asking for Money Owing

Often a student writes a check for too little money, and you are faced with the fairly-unpalatable task of calling to "ask" for the remainder of the tuition due. Is there any graceful way to do this?

I think so!

First, triple check your records to make sure money -is- owing. It is -incredibly- embarrassing to call and then find out -you- have made the error! If there is any doubt (for example, you haven't toted up your books in a couple months - - ahem - - and have just done so when you found the amount owing), sleep on it at least overnight and start completely over with your records the next morning to re-check before placing the call.

People make errors, and they really are not trying to cheat you of any tuition. That is why you are going to suggest it was an oversight, not a calculated attempt to cheat you.

Once you're convinced money is due you, call and ask the adult to "check his/her records." For example:

Be prepared with the dispensation of the last 3 months' tuition checks so you can say exactly which lessons those checks covered. Say something like:

"There were four Tuesdays in February, and you sent a check for $100. There were five in March, so that's $125. We're ok so far. April had only three lessons because of spring break, but you sent $100 for four weeks, anyway. As we discussed, I credited you for a lesson in May with the extra $25. May had 5 lessons. Perhaps you were thinking only four lessons, and, because of the credit for one May lesson, you sent the check for only three May lessons?"

At this point, doubtless the adult will exclaim in dismay and either mail the check or bring it to the next lesson.

At your discretion (if it is near the end of the month and this person is usually careful in his financial dealings with you), you might say, "Just put it in next month's check." If this parent is fairly forgetful, ask for him to "drop it in the mail today," because as surely as he does not act upon it now, he'll forget and you'll be back at square one.

Another option - - especially if you don't like phone calls about money - - is to send an invoice by mail or e-mail. Especially with email, make sure you have your ducks in a row. It's very easy to automatically hit "send," and this can get you into trouble if your accounting is wrong! I suggest you write the invoice as though you were going to mail it and then just transfer it to the body of an email, after sitting on it at least a day and starting from scratch to check your own records.

If the missing check doesn't arrive within the next two days, send an invoice (mail or e-mail), requesting that the parent "drop the check in the mail."

There is also the opposite situation: when a student overpays tuition.

copyright 1998, Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D.
Contact me for reprint permission.

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