The Coronavirus crisis is upending normal life as we know it, forcing millions of college students across the country to move to online-only learning. Multiple news articles about how schools are managing refunds during this unprecedented time are also creating new awareness of refund policies of schools and the risks facing students and their families of investing in higher education.
While COVID-19 has led to some schools providing prorated refunds for student housing and meal plans, virtually all schools are not providing a refund for tuition and academic fees because students have still received academic credit for the term.
According to a national Benchmark Study completed in Dec. 2019, during a normal semester, most schools provide a pro-rated refund through the fifth week of classes. This same study reports that 70% of schools have reported a growth in student medical withdrawals.
Though COVID-19 has disrupted classroom instruction, the reality is that every year, ordinary medical conditions, not just COVID-19, are a source of large financial losses for both students and schools. The 2019 National Student Health Assessment from the American College Health Association data reveals some of the ordinary risks college students and their families face today. More than 30,000 students were surveyed across 58 different schools.
GradGuard, an authority on protecting the investment students and families make in higher education, analyzed the data and identified vital findings that demonstrate the need for schools to provide the opportunity for families to protect their investment in a college education.
The ACHA assessment confirms the scale and impact of health conditions on college completion. The calculations are based on a total of 8.16 million full-time undergraduate students attending four-year non-profit institutions.
To illustrate the impact and financial risk for schools and the students they serve, it is useful to look at just four common student illnesses and its impact on degree completion include concussion, mononucleosis, pneumonia, and flu or flu-like illness.
Below is a snapshot of the data that was collected on those reporting the condition, as well as if the condition delayed progress towards a degree.
Taking a conservative estimate, these four conditions that students report delayed their academic progress likely cost students and schools more than $1 billion annually of preventable financial losses.
The ACHA data reveals other student health conditions that may also disrupt an academic term or lead to an unexpected student withdrawal. Nearly a quarter of students reported experiencing anxiety, followed by just under 20 percent reporting depression. Celiac disease, PTSD, eating disorders and bipolar disorder.
- Anxiety 23.6%
- Depression 19.1%
- Celiac 8%
- PTSD 4.7%
- Eating disorders
- Bipolar 2.1%
In these uncertain times responding to COVID-19, it is useful to evaluate your institution's current refund policy. Three essential questions for all campuses include:
1) How many students leave your school or do not return due to health conditions?
2) How does your institution provide "notice" of its refund policy to each student or family? Where is the refund policy published?
3) Are students and their families provided an active-choice to protect their investment with an affordable tuition insurance program that provides a refund when the school may not?