On Sept. 18, the University of Oregon introduced GradGuard’s Tuition Protection Plan, giving students an optional insurance plan at what UO administrators say is a “cheaper” price.
GradGuard refunds students depending on how much they decide to cover. When requesting a full refund, a complete withdrawal from classes must occur with a covered reason, like mental health conditions, chronic illness or COVID-19.
Jim Brooks, the Associate Vice President and Director of Financial Aid, said this partnership does not impact the university financially. “It’s strictly an opportunity for students to have a way to re-group some of the money they might have lost by withdrawing,” he said.
This partnership was voluntary and UO is the largest 4-year public university on the west coast that GradGuard is working with at this time, Natalie Tarangioli, the Director of Marketing and Communications at GradGuard said. This option became available to help students who are already struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide a financial cushion for unexpected costs.
Tarangioli said students can purchase a whole year of insurance through GradGuard, but it is on a term-by-term basis. “A lot of people bought for the fall because we’re in a weird time right now,” she said.
A policy must be purchased before classes start. GradGuard’s Tuition Protection Plan deadline was midnight on Monday, Sept. 28, the day before classes began. Students can sign up for winter tuition insurance from now until midnight on Dec. 3.
“University of Oregon students would pay 1% of the cost of tuition for a policy,” Tarangioli said. GradGuard charges up to 2% of the cost to students who are not enrolled at a partner university. There is a one-time payment option before the term begins and GradGuard can ensure students until the end of the term.
Tarangioli said GradGuard’s goal is to help students protect their funds in case of an unexpected occurrence so that students have the opportunity to get their money back.
Tarangioli, along with Brooks, said it’s more common for parents to purchase GradGuard. “We want more students to be aware of it because not everyone’s parents pay for tuition,” she said.
Outside the Tuition Insurance Plan Option, the UO Office of the Registrar continues to provide a refund petition option. Unlike GradGuard, this program does not require a complete withdrawal in courses and is eligible for students who missed academic deadlines or encounter “extenuating circumstances.”
Kelly Yee, a senior at UO, expressed her interest in the Tuition Insurance Plan Option. “I feel like they should have had this earlier,” she said. “I think this is a good option.”
Linfield University and Eastern Oregon University are also partnered with GradGuard.
On the other hand, Lissa Perrone, Director of Business Affairs at Oregon State University, said OSU is not partnered with GradGuard or other outside programs.
OSU has a standardized tuition appeal process she said. The process allows students to request a tuition reduction or refund due to a special circumstance or unexpected situation. OSU’s tuition refund process depends on the timing of when an unexpected event or medical issue occurred, Perrone said.
She said OSU’s tuition appeal process has worked well for students and they are always looking for more ways to support higher education by being open to what is available.
There is no set end date on the partnership between UO and GradGuard, therefore this partnership may continue even after the pandemic that makes the insurance necessary for some students is long gone.
Updated at 4:20 p.m on Oct. 13: this story was updated to reflect that GradGuard charges up to 2% of the cost, not 2%, for students who are not enrolled at a partner university. It was also updated to reflect that UO is the largest 4-year university on the west coast that GradGuard works with, not the largest overall.