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Tuition Refund?

It happens. College kids become ill and need to withdraw mid-semester.  There is a family emergency that requires a kid take a leave from college before the semester ends. There is a change in financial circumstances that affects a student’s ability to stay and finish the school term. And some students, for a variety of other reasons, come to the conclusion that they cannot stay at the college and decide to withdraw.

It’s not something we think about as we write that check for tuition, room and board, or sign off on the financial aid package. But if it does happen, you will be undoubtedly be wondering – what is the refund policy? Can I get some money back? How much? And what happens to  financial aid?  These are all questions we don’t, but should, ask when we fork over all that money. Things happen, and it is best to be prepared.

So, what should a parent do?

The first place to start is the college website. See what you can find out about the school’s policies. Every college is different. And don’t be surprised if the school has different refund policies for tuition, room and board, as well as different policies depending on the reason for withdrawal. In many cases, tuition refunds follow a sliding scale, meaning the amount of any refund decreases with time. The college may also have formal policies for notifying the school about a withdrawal, and compliance with those policies may affect the date a refund is calculated.

If you can’t find what you need on the website, a call to the school may be necessary. Check with the Office of Student Accounts or Bursar’s Office or the Financial Aid Office.

You should also be aware that if your student received financial aid, they may be required to pay back some of that money if they withdraw mid-semester. For information about repayment of Federal Title IV Financial Aid, click here.  For state-funded grants or other state-based financial aid, check with the specific state program under which the financial aid was granted. It is also a good idea to check the fine print about any scholarships earned to find out what would happen in the event of a mid-semester withdrawal.

For added peace of mind, some colleges also offer a Tuition Refund Plan through A.W.G. Dewar, to supplement the college’s own refund policy, and others offer Tuition Refund Insurance through other third party entities such as Sallie Mae, and GradGuard.

When we send our kids off to college, it’s usually with excitement and enthusiasm, and with little or no thought to “what if?” College is a big investment. Knowing how that investment will be handled in the event of a withdrawal, and making an informed decision now about how to best protect that investment, will help you avoid being surprised and stressed out later. Because wouldn’t you rather be knowsy than sorry?


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