GradGuard Expands Campus Development Team to Serve Growing Network of Colleges and Universities to Protect their Students

November 16, 2020 7:00:00 AM EST / by Natalie Tarangioli

As GradGuard continues the work of more than a decade to fulfill its mission of helping colleges and universities protect their students from preventable financial losses, we’re pleased to announce the network of campus partners has grown to nearly 400. Schools continue to look for solutions to challenges, many of which were exacerbated by the Coronavirus, including reduced enrollment, tightened budgets and student withdrawals. 

GradGuard, an authority at designing and implementing student benefit programs that help schools to attract and retain students, is proud to announce the addition of Jeff Hitchens, Janet White, and Nicki Thornhill. 

“These new hires bring talent and knowledge to GradGuard that will increase our capacity to ensure that all colleges and universities can provide the opportunity to protect the students they serve and the risks of college life,” John Fees, co-founder and managing director of GradGuard said.

Jeff Hitchens - Chief Operating Officer Jeff Hitchens

Jeff Hitchens joins GradGuard as the Chief Operating Officer. Hitchens has had a successful career with over 20 years of experience in the banking, insurance and student loan industries.

In his roles at Sallie Mae, Hitchens was instrumental in launching successful insurance and student loan platforms. He’s also worked for Credit One Financial Solutions, American International Group, and Bank of America, where he was the First Vice President for almost 10 years. 

“In addition to Jeff’s impressive career in leading financial service firms, he’s also a college parent,” Fees said. “He understands the unique risks college families face, and so he himself became a GradGuard member to protect his children while they’re pursuing their higher education.”

Hitchens will officially join the GradGuard team on December 1st. 

Janet White - Director of Business Development Janet White

Janet White joins the GradGuard team this November as the Director of Business Development. She will play a crucial role in helping expand a growing network of almost 400 campuses. 

With 20 years of experience, White has worked for Academic Management Services, Sallie Mae, and Transact, to help hundreds of institutions implement an array of programs to enhance the student finance experience on campus. She will be based in the Boston area and will be working with new campuses in the eastern United States.

“We’re very excited to have someone of Janet’s caliber on the team,” Derrick Shy, GradGuard’s vice president of campus development said. “She brings a sound background and breadth of knowledge in student finance. Given the unique challenges faced by higher education campuses, more institutions than ever are evaluating tuition insurance and its benefits.”

Currently, more campuses are evaluating solutions like tuition insurance for their institutions. White will play a key role in helping those campuses understand the benefits to them and their students. 

Nicki Thornhill - Implementation Manager and Data Specialist

Nicki Thornhill

Nicki Thornhill joins the GradGuard team as an Implementation Manager and Data Specialist this November after completing her Master’s degree in management information systems from Utah State University. Thornhill previously worked as a data analyst intern at GradGuard, where she honed her research and analytical skills updating student health and safety data.

Prior to GradGuard, Thornhill worked as a data analyst intern at Instructure, Inc., supporting revenue operations. With her intelligent research and analysis skills, Thornhill empowers companies to work more efficiently by identifying data trends. 

“Nicki’s strong background in data and analytics will be a valuable asset to our growing team,” Chanda Graham, vice president of strategic partners and university relations said. “She will be instrumental in supporting the successful execution of projects and implementation of our university partners.”

In her new role, Nicki will work closely with university partners to assist in product and member management. She will also play a key role in future research studies and reports. 


About: GradGuard is a technology-enabled pioneer in developing innovative protections designed to reduce the financial risks of college life. Since 2009, GradGuard has been trusted by nearly 400 colleges and universities and since its founding has protected more than 750,000 students and families. For more insights on #collegelife follow @GradGuard on social media.


Media Contact: 

Natalie Tarangioli

Director of Marketing and Communications

Topics: Press Releases

Natalie Tarangioli

Written by Natalie Tarangioli

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