Approaching college financial policies with compassion can make your institution stronger—here’s how

5 ways to craft college financial policies with empathy


Approaching college financial policies with compassion can make your institution stronger—here’s how

2. Recognize student sacrifices. At Valencia College, a community college in Orlando, Florida, any student who failed a course in the spring semester of 2020 when instruction shifted online received a $500 scholarship to retake that or another class. This gesture, along with other strategic efforts, allowed Valencia College to make up a 20 percent deficit in enrollment, according to reporting done by National Public Radio. Understand where students experience hardships and respond accordingly.

3. Be transparent with your own costs. We’ve all heard too many examples of students petitioning or refusing to pay for on-campus services they were not able to access due to pandemic restrictions. The idea that colleges are getting fat on student fees during the pandemic couldn’t be further from the truth, especially as schools have incurred increased costs to serve students remotely and reimagine every aspect of student and employee life. Helping students understand what their tuition and fees fund—and how that enhances their education—can be time well spent.

4. Provide flexibility. The annual or bi-annual billing cycle simply isn’t feasible for many students. One recent survey found that the pandemic has resulted in nearly two-thirds of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck. Offering monthly payment plans as an alternative to a semester schedule opens access to education for many worthy students. Compassionate billing is a principle that also applies well between vendors and organizations.

5. Be intentional with incentives. Financial policies operate with carrots and sticks. In addition to softening overly punitive policies, you can encourage student behavior that is in the best interest of the student and the institution through incentives. For example, scholarships for students who commit early to their institution help both parties. Colleges are able to plan their budgets with a clear picture of the incoming class. Students are able to get connected early to resources that will help them throughout their transition.

Incorporating empathy into your college financial policies and practices is a key way to connect your institutional values to your day-to-day practices. As the example of Valencia College illustrates, along with many others who are reimagining ways to meet students where they are with strategic, compassionate policies can strengthen your college community and your fiscal solvency.

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