Old refund policy remains in place

By Peter Schuh

NIU’s refund policy for students withdrawing from the university will remain the same this semester after a severe revision by the federal government.

NIU’s present policy, in short, refunds the full amount of tuition and fees paid if the student withdraws from a course or the university within the first 15 calendar days of the semester. After the 15th calender day (Sept. 7) but no later than the 30th (Sept. 21), the withdrawing student will receive a refund of only 25 percent tuition and, in some cases, a full refund of health insurance.

Students should note that NIU’s new tuition system, which charges by the credit hour up to the 16th hour, entitles them to a refund for withdrawing from a course once the student is under a 16-hour load.

In the past, tuition was charged by the hour only up to the 12th hour so a refund was applicable only when dropping from full-time to part-time status or withdrawing from the university.

Early this summer, the Board of Regents implemented a regulation regarding the refund policies of educational institutions. However, with the Regents’ consent, NIU has returned to its original policy for this semester.

“NIU requested an allowance of the chancellor to have a semester to phase-in the new policy and it was granted,” said John Penbroke, vice chancellor for Administration.

However, the Regents’ decision was not made in time to stop a copy of the revised refund policies from arriving at every student’s home along with his or her tuition bill.

Those revised policies should be disregarded, at least for this semester.

The Regents’ new policy, which complies with the new government regulation, would apply only to students who withdraw from the university. Students withdrawing from a single course or changing from full-time to part-time status would continue to fall under NIU’s original policy.

The new policy would allow a refund until the “60 percent refund point” in the time period of the semester. For NIU, this would mean students could receive a refund for withdrawing from the university until somewhere near the end of the 10th week of the semester.

The refund would be equal to the portion of the period of enrollment remaining rounded down. For example, a student withdrawing from the university during the first week of classes would receive a 90 percent refund of tuition and fees, and a student withdrawing at the midpoint of the semester would receive a 50 percent refund.

The advantage to the new policy is the student can receive a refund for a longer period of time than the old policy, while the old policy allows the student to receive a full refund for two weeks into the semester.

NIU Provost J. Carroll Moody said the old policy was kept in effect to lessen confusion for NIU students.

He said, “We were concerned because the old guidelines are still in the course book and the students weren’t notified about the new policy until their bills came out.

“We consulted with the chancellor’s office, and they said that we would be able to delay the policy for this semester only. We also informed the chancellor’s office that we intend to take a harder look at this policy to decide what the federal law mandates.”

Moody said although the Regents’ regulation was supposed to be in line with a “pro-student law” the administration was not certain “whether it is in the best interest of the university or the students. I know of a couple of concerns we have about the Board of Regents policy.”

Penbroke said although the law was binding upon universities, it was not written in response to university practices. He said the law was aimed at proprietary school, such as trade schools, beauty schools and truck-driving schools which have policies as severe as only a five percent refund after the first class session.

“They (the federal government) were trying to make uniform across the country the various refund policies of educational institutions,” he said.