Nearly every industry brings its own challenges to payroll. Few, though, offer the level of complexity that education does. As a broad professional industry that covers everything from public elementary schools to Ivy League colleges and every job from tenured professor to cafeteria staff, it’s a use case with plentiful nuances and particular details.
To help you better identify a software solution that will meet your organization’s needs (or, at least, help you jumpstart your search for such a solution), we’ve put together this handy comparison of the top education-ready payroll software.
Top education payroll software for education comparison
|Pricing||Free trial||Native time tracking||Employee self-service||Tax filing|
|ADP Workforce Now||Custom quote||No||Premium only||Yes||Yes|
|Paycor||Custom quote||No||Add-on only||Yes||Yes|
|Paychex||Custom quote||No||Add-on only||Yes||Yes|
Top payroll software for education
OnPay: Best overall
OnPay is a full-service solution for payroll, HR and benefits. Of the competitors in this list, it offers the most complete feature set related to core education payroll concerns, and it was the only one with pricing information available online. The platform’s excellent user experience, first-class customer support and mobile functionality set it at the front of the pack for tools that serve non-profits and educational organizations.
- OnPay offers simple, transparent pricing at $40 per month plus $6 per month per paid employee.
- Digital payroll: With OnPay, organizations have an unlimited number of monthly pay runs and can pay via direct deposit, debit card or check.
- Tax filing: OnPay supports automated tax calculations and withholdings in all 50 U.S. states — a critical feature for employees in the education industry who may be exempt from certain taxes, pay withholdings to different programs, etc.
- Mobile app access: Administrators and staff can both access OnPay from mobile, making it easy to manage accounts, update information, check statuses and more.
- Integrations for time tracking and more: OnPay can be linked to other popular software (that you are likely already using or familiar with) like QuickBooks Time, extending the usefulness of the platform through expanded functionality.
- Smooth, easy-to-learn user interface.
- Direct access to customer support.
- One-month free trial.
- Pain-free tax calculation.
- No native time tracking.
- No support for automated payroll.
For more information, read the full OnPay review.
ADP Workforce Now: Best for large organizations
ADP Workforce Now is the frontrunner on our list for larger teams and organizations. It has a personalized onboarding experience to help integrate the application into the system and get staff and faculty up to speed on its use. It also offers full support for tax processing and filing and facilitates automated payroll. What’s more, premium subscriptions include time tracking and attendance, along with a host of other critical HR functions.
- ADP’s pricing is not listed on the site — contact sales for more information.
- Comprehensive HR functionality: ADP offers access to tools and features across workforce management, HR management, talent acquisition and management, benefits and more.
- Automated payroll and tax filing: Remove the need to manually run payroll every pay period with automated paycheck processing, including withholdings and tax calculations.
- Setup and onboarding assistance: ADP support staff will help you get up and running quickly, so you can minimize disruptions and delays to administrative processes.
- Customizable dashboards: Users can modify their ADP portal to display the information that’s most important to them, and with the system’s robust reporting features, there’s a lot to choose from.
- System stability designed for large organizations.
- Expansive feature set across the entire HR domain.
- Large integration library.
- Native time tracking.
- Supports automatic payroll.
- Lacks transparent pricing, despite offering multiple subscription tiers.
- Limited live support options.
For more information, read the full ADP Workforce Now review.
Paylocity: Best for improving team engagement
Paylocity bills itself as a full Human Capital Management (HCM) solution, covering everything from payroll to talent acquisition to even compliance management. The clean, aesthetic and intuitive UI is a welcome comfort to any users averse to obtuse systems or interfaces that look like a Windows ‘95 program. Its biggest value-add, however, is the team engagement functionality, as it can help organizations build a sense of community and camaraderie.
- Paylocity’s pricing is not listed on the site — contact sales for more information.
- Payroll, even international: Paylocity supports the same core payroll functionality as its peers on this list, but it does so for the whole U.S. and over 100 countries globally.
- Compliance management: Built-in functionality makes it easier to implement, monitor and manage data privacy in accordance with numerous industry- and location-specific regulations.
- AI-powered analytics: While not necessary for every use case, the enhanced data reporting and analytics insights can promote better transparency, improved performance measuring and smarter decisions.
- Community and engagement platform: Paylocity has baked-in tools for gathering feedback from staff and faculty, improving employee experiences and helping reduce unnecessary turnover.
- Builds culture and community among staff and faculty and reduces turnover.
- Supports international payroll.
- Enables advanced compliance management.
- Provides mobile app access.
- Includes hundreds of integration options.
- No free trial.
- No transparent pricing listed on website.
- No contractor payroll functionality.
For more information, read the full Paylocity review.
Paycom: Best for employee self-service
Some responsibilities are easier to handle if the work isn’t expected of a single team or team member. Paycom is built around the idea of decentralizing the labor and tasks required to accomplish payroll and other HCM functions by enabling access to end users. By making the majority of the platform self-service friendly, administrators have less busywork to tackle, allowing them to spend their time and efforts elsewhere.
- Paycom’s pricing is not listed on the site — contact sales for more information.
- Self-serve focus: Paycom prioritizes employee end users, enabling them to “do their own payroll with a guided self-service experience.”
- Multiple payroll options: With Paycom, employees can be paid via several different methods, including a pay card, which increases the speed at which they can receive their paychecks.
- User-friendly mobile functionality: The mobile app is designed with simplicity in mind to help end users more easily use the system.
- Expansive HCM platform: Paycom is more than just payroll — the tools include talent acquisition, HR, project management functions and much more.
- All-in-one business efficiency tool with a broad feature set.
- Native time tracking.
- Native expense management.
- Effortless employee self-service, including through user-friendly mobile app.
- “GL Concierge” general ledger consolidation.
- No pricing listed on website.
- Fewer integration options than most solutions.
- More expensive setup than most tools.
For more information, read the full Paycom review.
Paycor: Best for going digital
As tech stacks grow to untenable sizes, many organizations are desperate to find a way to limit the number of applications that have to be managed and maintained for sustained operations. Schools, colleges and other educational institutions are no exception. That’s where Paycor comes in. With a feature set that includes all the usual suspects, plus expense management, scheduling software and compliance, it covers a wide range of operational concerns, allowing teams to use a single app for most of their day-to-day needs.
- Paycor’s pricing is not listed on the site — contact sales for more information.
- Digital-first platform: Paycor is built to help teams take paper systems and seamlessly port them to a digital management platform. For any school administration that’s ready to go paperless but worried about data entry errors, Paycor is an excellent fit.
- Full-stack HCM: With features covering nearly every aspect of work and human capital management, Paycor can reduce tech stack bloat and house a large portion of operational functions in a single application.
- Proactive error reduction: Automation-enhanced data entry helps speed up the process of digitizing information while still cutting down on human errors.
- Time-saving automation tools: Reduce burden on HR, PM and accounting staff by automating inefficient tasks and responsibilities.
- Tiered subscription plans to fit your budget and needs.
- Unlimited monthly payroll runs.
- Automatic payroll.
- Data entry error correction support.
- Automation support for numerous HR and management tasks.
- No publicly listed pricing on website.
- Most plans include setup fees.
- Time tracking is available, but only as an add-on.
For more information, read the full Paycor review.
Paychex: Best all-in-one solution
Paychex offers quite a few core payroll capabilities, such as automated payroll calculations, tax management, compliance support and multiple pay methods. However, it also provides a pretty decent variety of HR features for payroll software, like applicant tracking, employee development and benefits, so you can manage more in one centralized place.
On top of all that, Paychex provides analytics and reporting as well as built-in attendance and time tracking. It even has a highly rated mobile app for on-the-go management.
- Paychex’s pricing is not listed on the site — contact sales for more information.
- Push-button payroll simplicity: Paychex makes the process of running payroll incredibly simple, advertising that it can be done “in as few as two clicks.”
- Paychex Pre-Check: Minimize errors, reduce redundant efforts and cut back on HR costs with “Pre-Check” — allowing employees to review and approve their upcoming paycheck prior to running payroll.
- Compliance support: With over 200 compliance experts on staff, Paychex provides access to compliance expertise, guidance and reviews for organizations that need it.
- Professional Employer Organization service: Paychex makes it easier for smaller teams to run HR like a Fortune 500, with additional support services to supercharge HCM efforts.
- Numerous critical HR and payroll needs for an all-in-one solution (health insurance, 401k, business insurance, etc.).
- Offers PEO services.
- Available time tracking add-on.
- Mobile app that enables team members to manage schedules and workloads remotely.
- No listed pricing on website.
- Less intuitive system than most.
- Inconsistent customer support.
For more information, read the full Paychex review.
Key features of education payroll software
In addition to the standard features that nearly every organization is looking for in payroll software, the field of education comes with some additional concerns that aren’t always met by out-of-the-box solutions. And while even those vary by institution, location, organization size and a number of other factors, there are a few that most looking for software in this niche should be aware of.
Automated payroll runs
Depending on the size and complexity of the educational institution, running payroll manually may or may not be a major concern. Some solutions provide a great deal of functionality and added efficiency, but depending on the use case, if payroll has to be run manually each time (even if that’s only a few button presses away), that may be a deal-breaker.
Automated tax filing
With educational institutions, tax filing isn’t always straightforward, as it might be for a different industry. Laws vary by location, by type of institution and by a number of other factors, and it can be a complex issue to handle manually. Ideally, it would be automated through the payroll app, taking this major concern off of the admin team’s plate.
Not all education employees are salaried. Teachers, professors, administrators and the like are often paid via salary, but many others are not. Cafeteria staff, janitorial and maintenance crews, and even substitute teachers may be paid by the day or the hour. As a result, many education teams will likely need a tool that either offers native time tracking or attendance functionality or provides easy access to add-ons or integrations so they can properly manage that aspect of payroll.
Mobile app functionality
The last few years have seen the education landscape shift from mandatory in-person learning practically across the board to a much more distance-friendly mindset. In other words, where face-to-face interactions and physical paper records were sufficient (or at least acceptable) in years past, these days it’s increasingly expected that systems and processes will support remote access. Again, some education teams may find this less critical than others. But some will find it a mandatory feature.
Talent acquisition and management
In a time in the market where faculty and staff are often in short supply, it’s more important than ever for organizations to have improved methods for attracting and retaining talent. This is often considered a corporate matter, and hiring teachers isn’t typically seen as “talent acquisition” by the general public. But that’s precisely what it is, and the better that software can support those efforts, the better for the organization.
How do I choose the best education payroll software for my organization?
As with all technology solutions, there’s a lot to consider with payroll software for educational institutions. The end goal is the same as it always has been for educators, though: to facilitate the effective learning and growth of the students. So, carefully evaluate the needs of the organization, identify what’s required to achieve your most important goals and compare that against your budget. From there, it’s mostly a process of elimination.
While writing this article, we researched the vendors and their websites, as well as customer reviews and ratings, to gain a full understanding of where each solution fits into the market landscape — and who they serve most effectively.
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