4 minute read

Episode 601: Protecting Student Investments with University of Texas at Dallas

5/2/2023 7:00 PM

On the first episode of the new season of FOCUS, Cheryl Friesenhahn joins us to discuss the adoption of GradGuard tuition insurance at the University of Texas at Dallas. Friesenhahn is the Senior Director of Financial Services, leading the Bursar Office in overseeing all aspects of student finance for the past 18 years. Under her leadership, UT Dallas transformed their tuition refund appeals process by implementing GradGuard, enabling students to protect themselves against financial hardship in the event they have to withdraw due to a covered medical reason. We’re diving into the university’s former refund appeal process, what the addition of GradGuard has brought to the school, and Friesenhahn’s words of advice to other institutions considering tuition insurance.

UT Dallas overview

The University of Texas at Dallas is the academic home of over 31,000 students in Richardson, Texas. In addition to their varied academic programs, the university is perhaps best known for their top-ranked chess team. When it comes to managing student finance, Friesenhahn says the focus is to assist the students. By keeping them informed and providing efficient tools for payment facilitation and partnerships across campus, the university works collaboratively towards student success.

Refund policy and appeals

As does all other higher ed institutions in Texas, UT Dallas follows the state mandated tuition refund policy. This can be expensive for students who need to withdraw and pay back all tuition. The university recently added Consent Manager to their TouchNet Bill+Payment suite, which prompts students to acknowledge the refund policy before they can pay their tuition and fees. This helps ensure students are fully informed of the policy.

Before the implementation of GradGuard, the business office handled an average of 20 tuition refund appeals from students each month, approving approximately 10 per month. Students with appeals based on approved medical reasons were granted a one-time exception to the state refund policy. The students’ tuition fees were then refunded.

Granting up to 10 appeals per month meant UT Dallas was refunding close to a million dollars each year in tuition. Friesenhahn wanted to seek out a better way to aid students in need in case they had recurring circumstances and to mitigate the university’s loss of income.

Finding a better way with GradGuard

To create a more forgiving experience for students while maintaining revenue streams for the university, the financial services office explored alternative options. Tuition insurance through GradGuard had been of interest to Friesenhahn for a few years at this point. And with the ease of implementing GradGuard within TouchNet, the decision was a no brainer.

GradGuard is available at no cost to its partnering institutions, can be offered directly to students when they go to pay their tuition through an integration with TouchNet, and offers coverage for situations beyond what UT Dallas grants. Their insurance policies extend to tuition, housing costs and dining plans for as low as $110 for up to $10,000 of coverage.

The university launched GradGuard in the Spring of 2022, offering tuition protection plans at the same time the student is presented with the financial responsibility agreement that all students must sign through TouchNet Consent Manager. Parents and other authorized users could also purchase a policy through the student’s account for added convenience.

Since the addition of GradGuard, the number of appeals granted by the Bursar Office in the last calendar year dropped to two, far lower than the 120 offered in previous years. Friesenhahn hopes to increase the number of covered students by continuing to communicate with students about GradGuard. She also plans to work with the Accessibility Office to target students who might be in greater need of a policy to get them covered.

Implementing GradGuard

Friesenhahn appreciates how easy it was to implement GradGuard. It was especially simple since UT Dallas already had TouchNet and PeopleSoft solutions in place. Customer support addressed any concerns or questions she had in a timely manner, making the process even more streamlined.

Friesenhahn's advice to other schools interested in GradGuard is simple: just do it.

“It doesn’t cost you anything. You're giving your students an opportunity to protect their investment in their higher education,” says Friesenhahn.

Interested in adding GradGuard to your TouchNet payment solution? Contact GradGuard here: https://go.touchnet.com/GradGuard

Learn more about GradGuard: https://hub.gradguard.com