GradGuard for Higher Education

URMIA - The Case for Student Renters Insurance 

Posted by John Fees on Mar 20, 2018 6:17:19 PM

I shared this post recently with for the March edition of URMIA Insights - (University Risk Management and Insurance Association).  The message, however, is important for other leaders in higher education and particularly for those in student housing and student financial services. 

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Topics: student success, college theft, college fire safety, Dorm Life, renters insurance, apartment living, college life, dorm living, College Life Protected, Student Risk Management, student risk, Renting, Best Practices by Colleges, Higher Education Policy, Renters Liability, Student Benefits, insurance, Risk Management, Campus Fire, Student housing, ACUHOI, Higher Education, college renters insurance, URMIA

2018 NACUBO SFS - Tuition Refunds & More

Posted by John Fees on Mar 13, 2018 7:03:00 PM

Today it was my pleasure to join Mike Reynolds of Auburn University to present at the annual NACUBO Student Financial Services conference.  It is always good to share the stage with a higher education veteran and true student financial services professional.  Mike and I had some 

We shared our experiences and research regarding:

Common & Emerging Best Practices for Disclosing and Managing Tuition Refunds.  

Our presentation focused on the growing impact/frequency of student medical withdrawals and the increasing cost of the financial losses experienced by institutions and families.  The discussion aimed to 

  • Understand national research / benchmarks for how schools disclose their refund policies & manage student withdrawals 
  • Understand how schools are reducing the costs and risks of administering tuition refund appeals process
  • Understand how schools are implementing tuition insurance programs to reducing the financial losses caused by students withdrawals.

It isn't always possible for schools to afford the cost of attending an industry conference in person, so I am pleased to share the slides from our discussion through the link below. 

Download the NACUBO SFS Slides 

The slides provide a summary of the industry research and also a review of the experience at Auburn University and other schools who have chosen to embrace a fully transparent approach to disclosing and managing tuition refunds. Given the growth in student medical withdrawals it is prudent for schools that do not provide 100% refunds to provide notice of their institutions refund policy.   

The research contained in the presentation provides a useful baseline for schools to benchmark their own experience in managing the growing cost of refunds.   You don't need to read the research or the slides, however, if you take a moment to consider the following conclusions of the presentation. 

If you are serious about reducing the cost of student withdrawals to your institution and the families you serve, then we recommend that you consider the following practical next steps:

Recommended Next Steps

1. Evaluate your institutions refund policy.

2. How are students provided “notice” of the refund policy?

3. Is your current refund policy administered objectively?

- Avoid subjective & arbitrary administration

4. What is the cost of administering your current policy?

- Confirm you do not accept student health records without a HIPAA release.

5. Adopt a fully transparent disclosure process and offer tuition insurance protection.


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Topics: student success, Student Life, student health, Financial Literacy, tuition refund insurance, Tuition Insurance, student risk, Refund Policy, Best Practices by Colleges, Transparency, college parents, tuition refunds, Student Benefits, Higher Education, Bursars,, nacubo,, business operations,, Tuition Protection Plan, college refunds,

"Look Right" - Helping Students and Families Take Informed Action Webinar

Posted by GradGuard on Sep 29, 2017 9:03:04 AM

Have you ever noticed that in life - easy stuff get's done.  Making it easy for students to make good decisions is a cornerstone of a well-designed education experience. 

For instance, placing a recycling bin next to a garbage can - enables a choice when one may not have previously existed.  There was no choice to recycle without including the alternative for students to choose to recycle instead of just putting something into the trash. 

This small example demonstrates the importance of decision design and a recent webinar hosted by Professional Development Group illustrates how thoughtful decision design within student financial services can benefit both institutions and the students they serve.

Learn how schools are evaluating the decisions that students and their families are required to make.  Schools are adopting easy to implement approaches to help students make informed decisions - such as FERPA notification, refund policy disclosures and programs such as health and tuition insurance programs.

Access The Webinar

Another example - "Look Right" - is familiar to visitors in London.  Without such a simple reminder, the safety of American visitors to London could be compromised.  Decision design - it works and can be easily implemented to improve outcomes for your institution. Learn more today.

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Topics: College Life Protected, Tuition Insurance, Best Practices by Colleges, college refunds,

Webinar - Transparency - Helping Students and Families Take Informed Action

Posted by GradGuard on Sep 18, 2017 11:12:15 PM

Please join Professional Development Group's education series for a webinar led by John Fees, co-founder of GradGuard and Craig Lockwood, of Tuition Management Systems as they discuss the timely topic of transparency.

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Topics: College Life Protected, Tuition Insurance, Best Practices by Colleges, college refunds,

Protecting International Students

Posted by John Fees on Jun 2, 2017 6:10:27 PM

This is a big week for professionals who serve international students. 

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Topics: tuition refund insurance, College Life Protected, Tuition Insurance, Best Practices by Colleges, college renters insurance, Tuition Protection Plan, international students, international

Decision Design in Education - Make It Easy

Posted by John Fees on May 25, 2017 7:32:58 PM

Have you ever noticed that in life - easy stuff get's done.  Making it easy for students to make good decisions is a cornerstone of a well-designed education.  For instance, placing a recylcing bin next to a garbage can just works.  People and students recyle when it's easy.  

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Topics: renters insurance, Best Practices by Colleges, Transparency, Renters Liability, college renters insurance

2017 Trends & Topics for Student Financial Services

Posted by John Fees on Apr 24, 2017 5:22:54 PM


Over the years of working with more than 200 colleges and universities, we have learned that there are many higher education conferences that are valuable to attend to see colleauges and customers.  One of the most useful and relevant conferences is the Professional Development Group's annual Bursar conference.

This year's conference is near Jacksonville and features a terrific set of education panels and discussions.  Of particular note, is the time that PDG dedicates to discussing the trends that impact schools and also the work involved to share benchmarks and best practices among schools.  There is a sincere interest of everyone attending on reducing the costs of college for students and their families, helping students make informed decisions and promoting greater college completion.

As one example, is from the  The 2017 Survey on Student Withdawals & Refunds. This report reveals that nearly half of schools reporting an increase in student medical withdrawals and as a result more schools than ever are providing the opportunity for their students to protect themselves through tuition insurance. 

In addition to the focus on reducing costs, the conference includes a useful series of discussions on the importance of helping college students and their families make informed decisons.  Join industry veterans John Fees, co-founder of GradGuard, and Craig Lockwood the Managing Director of Tuition Management Systems as they lead a discussion on the timely topic of Decision Design and how student financial services professionals are "Helping Students and Families Take Informed Action".  

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Topics: Tuition Insurance, Best Practices by Colleges, Transparency, college completion, Bursars,

Student Housing Leader Joins GradGuard, an Authority at Designing and Implementing Student Benefits Programs

Posted by GradGuard on Mar 6, 2017 5:16:28 PM

GradGuard, an authority at designing and implementing student benefit programs that help schools to attract and retain students, is pleased to announce that Wimer Alberto, Assistant Director of Guest and Conference Housing at Arizona State University has been appointed as it’s new Director of Campus Partnerships, effective Monday, March 6th, 2017.

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Topics: Press Releases, Press, Best Practices by Colleges

The Biggest Crisis in Higher Ed Isn't Student Debt, It's Students Who Don't Graduate

Posted by John Fees on Nov 2, 2016 11:55:26 AM

This is a follow-on to a LinkedIn post I created in 2014 and Titled: The Real Issue: Failing to Graduate is Costly. The statement remains even truer today. The National Center for Education Statistics confirms that the "6-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a bachelor's degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2008 was 60 percent."

What has changed is an awareness and a commitment by leaders in higher education such as Arizona State University President, Dr. Michael Crow who recently published a noteworthy article titled. "The Biggest Crisis in Higher Ed Isn't Student Debt, It's Students Who Don't Graduate"

Dr. Crow correctly argues "the greater crisis: the fact that more than half of those who start college fail to finish. Think about it: Tens of millions of people in the US are saddled with student debt and have no degree to help pay it off....In too many cases, they may never recover, leaving them feeling frustrated and bitter, disenfranchised and unable to find a way to better jobs and greater opportunity. Too many, saddled with debt and lacking a degree, feel trapped."

That statement is consistent with the 2014 quote from the New York Times "The vastly bigger problem is the hundreds of thousands of people who emerge from college with a modest amount of debt yet no degree. For them, college is akin to a house that they had to make the down payment on but can’t live in."

As an Arizona State University graduate and active in increasing college access and completion rates through College Success Arizona, I am pleased to read about the success of unique programs that Dr. Crow highlights such as eAdvisor and Major Maps. In addition, he reminds us of the value of corporate partnerships such as the College Achievement Plan created between ASU and Starbucks that aims to help Starbuck's employees their degrees.

In addition to the innovative approaches ASU has taken, more can be done to improve efforts to promote greater student success. Three specific topics that interest me that are worth greater discussion.

  • Understanding Pipeline issues - specifically the academic readiness of students who enroll in college with insufficient skills to complete college level requirements. Articulating these common expectations is not just about a test score but about making sure that national curriculums meet international standards for literacy and numeracy.
  • Understanding Family support - Academic achievement often reflects more complex factors such family socio-economic and educational attainment. Research from College Parents of America (where I serve as a Director) indicates that students with family support are more likely to graduate than those that have little to none.
  • Understanding Risks that can Disrupt an Education - Next to the ability to afford college and complete the academic work, students report that "life-got-in-the-way" as the third reason why they may not complete a degree program. Growing efforts by schools to anticipate and provide protection from these unexpected events is noteworthy. Three small examples include efforts to provide robust residence life programs, student health, and counseling programs.

It is useful to broaden the discussion regarding student success and to give greater focus to the larger, more enduring problem of college completion. This is a big part of why Bill Suneson and I founded GradGuard. Our mission is to promote greater student success by helping to protect the investment students and their families make in a higher education.

GradGuard's student benefit programs help students and their families overcome the financial losses that can result from student illnesses, injuries, addiction, the death of a tuition payer as well as theft and even property damages.

Thankfully, more than 200 schools recognize the value of providing GradGuard to protect their students and provide convenient opportunities to enroll in our Tuition Protection Plan and College Renters Insurance Plan to help reduce the financial losses that may otherwise interrupt a student's path towards graduation.

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Topics: student success, college life, Student Risk Management, student risk, Best Practices by Colleges, leadership, college completion, college risk

Renters Insurance For Summer Program Residents

Posted by John Fees on Mar 30, 2016 10:20:37 AM

The ACUHOI community forum offers a robust place for housing professionals to discuss topics.  Today a discussion occured regarding institutional policies for summer programs.  Schools, particularly in popular urban locations, such as Washington D.C., Chicago and many others have strong and growing conference programs.  

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Topics: Student Life, renters insurance, Best Practices by Colleges, Renters Liability, Student housing, ACUHOI

College Life Protected

Insights on student risk

GradGuard for Higher Education examines how unexpected losses can affect student success, bringing you the latest in best practices and trends for safety on and off campus.

Here you'll learn more about:

  • Risks on and off campus
  • How schools are using benefits programs to protect and attract students
  • Effects of loss on student outcomes

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