Judy Cuellar has been the Director of Financial Aid and Student Accounts at Schreiner University since March 2021.
One of the first things she prioritized when she started in her new role was bringing on the same tuition insurance program she championed at her previous institution, Oklahoma Christian University.
Given increasing tuition costs, compounding student loan debt, and other hurdles students face on their path to graduation, Cuellar sought to find some relief for students and families.
Schreiner first partnered with GradGuard to offer tuition insurance in August 2022.
The Difference With an Opt-In Tuition Insurance Program
Even before coming to Schreiner, Cuellar liked the idea of providing an optional safety net for students. Specifically, one that's opt-in.
"I've been a fan for a while, and I think it's an excellent option for students," Cuellar said.
Before GradGuard, Cuellar researched other companies that provide tuition insurance for college students but was dismayed to see they were opt-out. She didn't like the idea of yet another fee tacked onto every student's bill, and the extra step students who didn't want or need the insurance would have to take by opting out.
Upon learning that GradGuard is opt-in, Cuellar was part of the charge that led Oklahoma Christian University to become a GradGuard partner in January 2019.
Getting Schreiner Up to Speed With Integration
The mental health of college students has been a concern for some time, which has been heightened in recent years and months due to the pandemic. Administrators have front-row seats to the struggles students are facing today.
"We are seeing a lot of students who are struggling," Cuellar said. "Mental health issues have grown and I feel like more and more people need something like this."
Now at Schreiner, Cuellar was steadfast on bringing the same leading tuition protection program on board.
"This seems important to some people who just can't make it through," she said.
After some consideration with colleagues and administrators, Schreiner became one of the first schools to integrate GradGuard's Tuition Protection Program with Transact ahead of the fall 2022 semester.
Cuellar recalls the experience being seamless. Now when paying tuition, students are asked to acknowledge the school's refund policy and are presented with the option to buy tuition insurance at the preferred rate partner schools receive.
"It was a quick and easy process," she said. "I think it worked out great."
How Schreiner Helps its Students
Many schools with appeals processes to handle withdrawals find no need for them once GradGuard's Tuition Protection Program is implemented. But at Schreiner, Cuellar says she expects the appeals process to continue because they are constantly seeing how they can help students where they can.
"Schreiner is a generous university," Cuellar said. "They love their students, and they're going to do everything they can to help them out."
While write-offs can hurt the school's bottom line, sending a student to collections instead has lasting negative effects. When a student has a debt that prevents them from returning to their studies, one of the worst situations presents itself: in debt with no degree.
The majority of students struggle with maintaining their personal well-being, including mental health, according to the 2022 College Confidence Index.
Over a seven-day period:
- 91% of surveyed students reported feelings of anxiety
- 73% of surveyed students reported feelings of depression
As a college parent, Cuellar knows the reality of students struggling with their mental health all too well; her son has autism and anxiety.
"It would be important for a child like my son to have something like that in their back pocket if they know that they're going to struggle," she said.
The simplicity of GradGuard's Tuition Protection Program can't be overstated. It provides students the opportunity to protect their investment in higher education with just one click. For Cuellar, it was fulfilling to champion the program at not just one school but two.
Students can customize the coverage amounts to their needs, and the preferred rate available to partner schools keeps the program affordable. If a student is having problems come up throughout the school year and they determine they need to medically withdraw for a covered reason, tuition insurance can reassure them that the problem can be managed. They can take the time to step away from their studies while focusing on getting well, without the potential loss of tens of thousands of dollars hanging over their heads.