Tuition insurance has been offered to students and families at Miami University for as long as Kriss Cassano can remember. The bursar at the university in Oxford, Ohio has worked at the institution for over the past 20 years.
Miami previously worked with another tuition insurance provider. Cassano admits the university did not do much outreach to educate students and families about it, and they didn’t see a lot of participation.
That’s all changed since Miami started working with GradGuard a few years ago.
Not All Tuition Insurance Providers are Created Equally
GradGuard enabled Miami to offer flexible student benefits like never before. With their previous tuition insurance provider, all families were billed the same price for an opt-out plan that offered less coverage than GradGuard.
“It was one set cost across the board,” Cassano said. “I wonder if that is why we didn’t have the enrollment.”
With GradGuard, families are able to select the coverage they need for tuition, room and board, and academic fees. Whether it’s $2500 or $40,000 per term, it’s completely customizable.
“It put the power of the insurance in the hands of the family,” Cassano said.
She describes GradGuard as a better fit for the university, especially now that the program is integrated within the billing process.
Dedication to Student Retention and Graduation
Many colleges and universities often experience a transformation to their refund and withdrawal processes after they partner with GradGuard. Refund petitions or appeal committees become a thing of the past while utilizing an embedded consent manager for tuition refund schedules and policies. This ensures students and families who don’t opt for tuition protection through GradGuard are made aware of dates and policies related to withdrawals and refunds.
A refund appeals group meets to discuss rare, but possible exceptions to the university’s refund policy for withdrawals. Medical withdrawals are not looked at by the appeals group due to their specific nature. Tuition insurance allows for some leeway with medical withdrawals where Miami previously couldn’t provide refunds at all, according to Cassano.
“We deal with the money and that’s very sensitive,” Cassano said. “It’s definitely a positive for us.”
Miami University also offers students who complete medical withdrawals a tuition credit for one semester, Cassano said. Students are able to return once they are well enough to do so, without the financial burden of having lost a semester’s worth of tuition. Since students are only able to take advantage of the credit once, they’re advised about tuition insurance should anything happen again in the future.
The Difference With Integrated Tuition Protection
Miami became a GradGuard partner in December 2018. The school has seen tremendous growth in program participation since then, with a nearly 8000% increase compared to policies purchased for 2021-2022.
A big part of the increase in policies sold was due to integration, as the GradGuard tuition insurance offer is embedded in the billing software and appears as families pay their bills. That feature went live this summer.
“A lot of our families think it’s new,” Cassano said. “It’s always been on the website and it’s always been an option. Now that it’s in front of them, I think they pay attention.
Getting the word out about tuition insurance before integration was tough, Cassano admits. Previously, it was something they had to look for on the website and the university would send e-mails and informational letters about it. Now, families are aware of the resource and understand the benefits, especially as the pandemic continues and college students are facing negative mental health challenges.
“The fact that it’s for mental, physical, and medical well-being is an additional plus, I think, because we’re seeing a lot more students taking medical withdrawals,” Cassano said. “We’re seeing an uptick of things where we hadn’t in the past.”
GradGuard’s opt-in program does not require administrative upkeep nor cost the school anything. Families who have questions about coverage, cost, and purchase deadlines can get answers directly from GradGuard’s website, or by calling and speaking to a representative.
Customizable opt-in plans built for college families
Having worked with GradGuard and other tuition insurance providers, Cassano says the biggest difference is GradGuard’s integration into the billing software.
“That, to me, is a home run,” Cassano said. “To me, it’s a no-brainer to have this because it’s opt-in. We don’t really have to administer anything.”
Another plus is customizable plans. Families have different situations -- whether they’re out of state and paying a full amount, or attending in-state on a scholarship. That may be the difference of tens of thousands of dollars. GradGuard’s coverage is based on individual family needs.
“The fact that they can tailor the plan to their needs based on what money they’re paying -- to me -- is more of an insurance thing,” Cassano said.
One sign of a good vendor relationship is if they are easy to work with. That’s how Cassano describes the team at GradGuard.
“That’s important, and I’m not just blowing smoke,” she said. “Everything that comes through Miami or the bursar’s office is looked at as if it were us -- Miami. So when we work with vendors and they do a poor job, or a good job -- families just look and say, ‘It’s Miami.’ To me, to have a good relationship with a vendor is a really good thing because you’re an extension of us.”
Multiple departments at Miami University have seen the benefits of a partnership with GradGuard. From the bursar’s office to student affairs, administrators are able to provide a resource to students and families to protect their investment. The difference between GradGuard and the competition is clear with integrated, no-cost solutions that are customizable, flexible, and easy to understand.