In college, students learn how to live on their own, learning how to be financially responsible and knowing what risks are out there.
Texas Tech University offers both GradGuard renters and tuition protection programs, which empower the administration to provide their students and families with peace of mind during a time of great uncertainty.
Advocating for tuition protection
Texas Tech partnered with GradGuard for a tuition protection program in Dec. 2020 but Christine Blakney was advocating for the program long before that.
For the past few years, Blakney, the Managing Director of Student Business Services, has been pushing her decision makers about GradGuard because she believed the tuition protection program was beneficial for students and administration alike. Students are able to get a refund for tuition, fees, and room and board if they complete a medical withdrawal for a covered illness or injury.
"It's always been intriguing to me, the tuition insurance concept," Blakney said. "Because in every instance I've looked at, it was a win-win for the school and the student."
Programs complement withdrawal policies
Refund and withdrawal policies at institutions are often firm and not so generous, and for good reason. After the first few weeks of classes, most schools don't provide any refunds.
That's where the appeals process often comes in. Blakney recalls instances where students who ended up leaving the university filed appeals for refunds. One that came front of mind was where a student with two broken wrists had to withdraw.
Blakney says this is an example of how administrators wish they could be more sympathetic and help students out by eliminating the financial burden for them so they're able to come back. But it's a problematic situation.
"We couldn't just go in and wipe out a student's bill," Blakney said. "Because we're a public university and the money is actually owned by the state, we don't have the flexibility to say, 'We know this is a bad situation. Let me take care of this.' That wasn't an option."
Since then, the university has worked to create more communication that reinforces students' and families' awareness of refund and withdrawal policies that are in place. With GradGuard, students are given the option to buy a tuition protection plan while paying their tuition.
Renters program paves the way for tuition to follow
Texas Tech has been partnering with GradGuard for renters protection since 2013 and since then students have been presented with the option to buy a renters protection plan while signing up for student housing. The program is incorporated into the university's housing software, making indicating interest in the program easy.
“They have a lot of other things to worry about, not just insurance," Andrew Howard, Section Manager of the University Student Housing Marketing and Communications Department said. "They have to get moved in, wherever that is. We set it up so that it was super easy.”
Howard says in the four years he's been at the university, he hasn't heard anything negative about the program from students and families. Since it's been around for a while, he believes the majority of students and families like the option to get GradGuard's renters insurance. With so much else to worry about when it comes to enrolling in school, signing up for housing, and everything in between, renters insurance can quickly be checked off the list of things to do.
Student housing is a binding contract that comes with liability. Howard says students are made aware of what their responsibilities are and what they are of the school. Texas Tech makes it known to students that the school can't control theft or damages, and so they have the option to protect themselves and their belongings with renters insurance.
"It gives us one more tool to help put the parents at ease," Howard said. "They don't have to go research and ask around. It's something that's presented as an option."
Having students view college as a large consumer purchase
Texas Tech first offered tuition insurance for the Spring 2021 semester. Before the launch, administration did outreach to students and families announcing that they had an option for tuition insurance and made it clear that tuition insurance is optional and GradGuard doesn't pay Texas Tech to offer it.
It's been an excellent response, Blakney says. Almost 600 students bought a plan for the spring semester.
“To me, I think that’s 600 families with an advanced level of financial security especially in light of Covid and all those other highly, highly questionable things that have been going on in the past academic year. This gave them the sort of assurance and confidence that their financial decision was secure.”
GradGuard is integrated with TouchNet, which Texas Tech uses. Integration allows students and families to enroll in the program in just a couple of clicks. Once that feature is turned on at TTU, Blakney hopes to see higher participation through an even more seamless process.
As for the implementation process, there's virtually no work that needs to be done by administrators. Blakney describes the process as easy and not highly technical.
"It took one afternoon to turn the feature on and everything went seamless from there," she says.
Protection programs are a win-win for students and campus
It's clear to see how beneficial a tuition protection program is for admin and students alike. The optional program puts students and families in charge of one of the biggest investments they'll ever make.
“The student is absolved and guaranteed financial security for this very important investment and financial obligation in their life," Blakney said. "The university is made whole so we’re not looking at losing out due to events beyond the student's control.”
“It’s the adult thing to do and it’s smart," Howard said. "We wouldn’t offer it if we didn’t think it was a good thing, and we wouldn’t make it as easily accessible.”
By working with GradGuard, Texas Tech makes signing up for tuition and renters protection simple and straightforward.