Colleges and universities nationwide are continuing to face challenges brought on by the pandemic. But one of the biggest issues that existed before Covid-19, and will surely exist long after the virus is controlled, is college refunds.
A Perfect Storm of Unique Challenges
Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on across campuses:
- Rise in mental health conditions among college students (ACHA, 2019)
- Increasing college costs and burden of student debt (College Board, 2020)
- Majority of institutions don’t offer full refunds beyond the first few weeks of school (HigherEd Study, 2019)
Unexpected events happen every year on campuses that often disrupt a student’s education. These events include a serious illness or injury, a mental health condition, chronic illness, or the death of a tuition payer. In many cases, students are faced with completing a medical withdrawal, which often results in a great financial loss.
The growth in student medical conditions that impact academics is real. The American College Health Association's National College Health Assessment confirms an increase in student health-related medical withdrawals. Between 2013 and 2018, chronic health issues and illnesses, and eating disorders have risen 17 and 31 percent, respectively.
If your institution doesn’t provide full refunds for medical withdrawals, these unexpected events and the potential medical withdrawal that results can be devastating for a student and their family. In fact, a 2019 survey by College Parents of America indicates that 78% of parents surveyed had no idea how their college or university would manage a medical withdrawal. That same survey revealed that only 23% would be able to afford an additional semester, and 51% said it would be difficult or not possible to handle the costs.
Transparent refund policies can prevent costly surprises
Many times, students and families become aware of their school’s refund policy after the need to complete an unexpected medical withdrawal arises. Institutions are smart to be proactive and transparent by providing notice to each student of your refund policy. An electronic verification that "notice" has been provided to each student of the institution's refund policy is prudent.
To avoid adversarial collections and improve retention rates, campuses are prudent to go a step further and provide the opportunity for students and families to protect themselves from the financial loss that may result from an unexpected medical withdrawal, by offering GradGuard’s Tuition Insurance. GradGuard's student benefit programs also help institutions reduce the cost of the appeals process and refunds. While these stats paint a pretty bleak picture of the financial state of higher education, the good news is there’s never been a better time to help your students and families protect their investment and prevent financial losses.
Convene a discussion among the multiple offices and functions within the university that influence the student withdrawal process and within weeks you can easily improve the transparency and knowledge that is collected this year.
Evaluate the school's refund policy.
Evaluate your school's refund policy. Most schools do not provide refunds after the fifth week of classes.
If your school provides refunds beyond that, your institution is more generous that most schools.
Identify where the refund policy is published online.
Verify that each student is provided notice within the billing process. Speak with your billing software company about how this can be completed at no cost to your school.
Provide all students and families the opportunity to protect their investment in college by enabling each student to make an active choice.
If a choice is not enabled by a school, the default answer is no. GradGuard enables schools to make sure that students are adequately informed and can make decisions to protect their investment in college.
Implementing GradGuard’s Tuition Protection Program into your existing payment portal is easier than ever with software you already use, and is done so at no cost to your school. GradGuard has exclusive partnerships with the three largest payment and billing providers in higher education, Touchnet, Nelnet, and Transact.
There's never been a better time to take a deep dive into how your college or university handles refunds. Understanding the impact student medical withdrawals not only has on college students and their families, but also on higher education staff and institutions, is crucial. Tuition Insurance can be the solution to increasing transparency, improving retention rates, and reducing costs of appeals processes.