Prepaid Bursary Card

Client Background

A North East based college, specialising in apprenticeships and path-to-work courses. The college prides itself in aiding students in getting back to learning, particularly with individuals who may have issues with student budgeting. It provides a number of grants, bursaries and loans itself, and also works with a variety of other organisations to aid student funding.


The college found that it was spending a large amount of time on the admin associated with grants, bursaries and loans. Some of the other organisations that helped fund these financial benefits for students require the money to only be spent on items truly associated with learning such as stationery, books & private tutoring, thereby restricting the spend. The college had to ensure all students understand the grants, sign to agree to any conditions, and provide their bank details to process each grant one-by-one termly. This was taking up a lot of time of the finance and back office team but the college was keen to use this time better on sourcing further income for the college and its students. The college was in search of an easier provision of grant payments.

The college was also experiencing a significant number of drop outs due to student’s poor budgeting throughout the term. As they are given their funds on a termly basis due to admin resource constraints, which often led to running out of funds before the term ends, causing an increased number drop outs.


The college has a large number of school leavers:

  • 16-19 years old
  • Still living at home
  • All have access to smart devices

They also help several students get back to learning after a break in education:

  • 21-45 years old. Average age of returning students is 27
  • 38% have children
  • Living independently or with partner
  • All have an email address
  • Most have access to smart devices or access via college equipment


Agency Process

To reduce admin, paperwork was sent to students via email, with an SMS notification to support advising them of the free online access available via college computers. Paperwork could be downloaded or electronically signed to agree to any T&Cs. Once received this paperwork was held against the student profile permanently. All students eligible for a grant, bursary or loan were issued with a prepaid bursary card. All monetary funds could be added as and when required.

  • The college simply provided the card supplier with a spreadsheet of funds to be loaded, and the total value, by the student. The supplier then organises the payments, sending load notifications, and managing all queries – vastly reducing the burden on the college’s finance office!With the ability to be more frequent with payments the college could help the student budget throughout the term. Also, there are certain restrictions in place such as no gambling, again helping students with their financial responsibilities.
  • All cards are fully branded with the college logos to ensure the link between the cards to the college is obvious to all who see it. All of the supporting literature sent to card holders contained clear and specific information on what the funds could be spent on to ensure the student were using the funds appropriately to help support their education and learning.  The prepaid cards could be spent anywhere online or instore using chip and PIN. Students could check their balances online or via iPhone/android apps allowing for 24/7 information which was particularly relevant for students working or socialising late into the night!


  • Over 800 cards issued
  • £396,000 loaded in 12 months

The switch to prepaid cards has reduced the admin for the finance office by an estimated 93 hours per month, allowing the college to offer bursaries monthly rather than termly, aiding students in managing their budgets more efficiently and stay in college.

Student opinions have included:

  • “It’s great to be able to separate out my bursaries. When I started, I was really struggling, and my bursary kept just paying off my overdraft. Now I can separate out my money and not overspend on things I don’t really need”
  • “When I’m busy I sometimes overspend as it’s all about convenience. As this is a prepaid card I can only spend what is available – knowing this means I am a lot stricter with myself”
  • “I’m so glad I don’t have to queue up every term anymore, it would take a whole day when I have so much to do!”
  • “Moving here from Italy to attend college meant it was difficult to find a local bank to deposit bursary cheques. Now I don’t have to worry as the money automatically loads to my card”

See more Usage Models below:
*for illustrative purposes only