It's been several years since medical appeals were taking a great toll on Wheaton College, when claims for withdrawals were handled internally.
A tuition insurance provider would eventually help fine tune the appeals process. But according to school administration, there are stark differences in the providers that lead to great impacts on the efficacy of the program. And the issue of a burdensome appeals process wasn't fully solved until more recently.
The liberal arts college in Norton, Massachusetts became a GradGuard partner for the 2018-2019 school year. Previously, the school was working with another provider to offer tuition insurance to students and families. But administration described the relationship as inefficient and challenging, and information about the program wasn't easily understood by students, family, and school staff. So they turned to GradGuard, and that's when they say everything changed for the better.
Major improvements with the new program
One of the factors that drew Wheaton to GradGuard was its customer service, according to Heather Clang, Director of Student Accounts. She said it's now easier for students and families to learn more about the program directly from GradGuard and to get answers to any questions they may have."At the beginning, I felt like this is too good to be true," Clang said. "But GradGuard really lived up to that.”
Student accounts staff are able to be champions for the program, steering families in the direction that's best for them and their individual needs and concerns.
Customizable policies put families in charge
With GradGuard, it's completely up to students and families how much they want to insure, whether it's $2,500 or $40,000 per term. That's one of the other features Wheaton administration enjoys about the program, according to Valerie Desmond, Senior Assistant Director of Student Accounts said.
"GradGuard feels like a better opportunity for families to be more in charge and have a better understanding of what tuition insurance is." Desmond said.
GradGuard's Tuition Insurance is integrated within Wheaton's online student account center, through one of Nelnet's platforms. That's where students and families are introduced to the program and are able to purchase a policy. Since integration launched, Wheaton has seen a high participation rate from students and families protecting their investment.
Ana O'Brien, Senior Assistant Director of Student Accounts recalls a time when a parent reached out to their office with concerns about GradGuard. He hadn't heard of GradGuard nor tuition insurance before, so he called the school to verify it was a legitimate program and not a scam.
O'Brien said she was able to clear up his confusion, and let him know about some of the many benefits of tuition insurance. After encouraging him to consider GradGuard, he ended up enrolling his student in the program.
Recommended for students, families, and higher education administration
A 2019 survey found a 70% growth in medical withdrawals across college campuses nationwide. Even before the pandemic, ordinary medical conditions such as anxiety, pneumonia, or mononucleosis, impacted college completion. With an increase in mental health conditions among college students nationwide, along with the current public health emergency caused by COVID-19, Wheaton administration recommend GradGuard as a viable option for families, as well as to administration at other institutions.
The program would greatly benefit any college or university facing burdensome medical withdrawals and appeals, as Wheaton was before working with GradGuard.
"I would strongly recommend GradGuard as an option for families," Clang said. "And from an administrative point, how easy, smooth, clean, and professional it is."
School Spotlight Takeaway
Tuition insurance wasn't necessary a few decades ago, when college was more affordable and refund policies were more generous. But given a variety of factors, including tightened school budgets due to COVID-19, inability to provide full refunds beyond the first few weeks of classes, and rising mental health conditions among college students, schools are smart to give students and families the opportunity to protect themselves from preventable financial losses with tuition insurance.
Wheaton College is doing a valuable service by offering students and families the opportunity for a do over, should the unexpected happen. Protecting students' out-of-pocket expenses also benefits the school. By partnering with GradGuard, Wheaton is able to offer its community tuition insurance plans that are not only easy to understand, but also customizable.