Students walk through the Horseshoe on Nov. 30. USC is partnering with insurance company GradGuard to offer tuition insurance to students. (Photos by Kate Robins/Carolina News and Reporter)

USC is offering students a way to protect their tuition by partnering with a tuition insurance company.

GradGuard, a third-party company that partners with a variety of universities, will provide the optional insurance starting in the spring semester.

The hope is that the insurance will help students who have to take a sudden leave of absence, said university Bursar Nicole Pressley.

Students dealing with unexpected physical, mental health, financial or family issues sometimes have to withdraw, potentially making them lose money spent on tuition.

“It may be a situation where they’re not eligible to receive a refund for tuition that they’ve paid,” Pressley said. “And, unfortunately, sometimes it may be a situation where the student leaves the university still owing a debt, making it hard for the student to be able to return to school once they’re ready.”

Students and their families have until Jan. 16 to purchase a plan for the spring.

To determine the appropriate coverage option, GradGuard collects information regarding whether students are in-state residents and whether they live on campus. 

The university’s Withdrawal Refund Appeals Committee evaluates whether the student’s case was unplanned and how much it affects their financial circumstances.

GradGuard will help give extra security to those who may have to go through the refund appeal process, said Pressley, who is chair for the committee.

“We do hear feedback from the students as to the reasons why they’ve had to withdraw, ” Pressley said. “That was another reason that we felt like it could be a benefit to those students in those particular situations.”

Some students have said that while they aren’t concerned about potentially having to withdraw from the university, they understand why some students need insurance.

“I’d be interested in what it entails,” sophomore Mackinley Farber said.

Nyashia Burch is a junior in mass communications. She paid for her tuition out of pocket during her first year at USC, she said.

“I know it might be a hassle, especially if you’re working and you’re in school,” Burch said. “You’re trying to make sure your tuition and stuff is covered.”

But she’s unsure about how much the student would be gaining from the insurance plan and wonders what the university is gaining from it compared to students, she said.

GradGuard offers different coverage options based on the student’s circumstances. Each student receives at least $15,000 in coverage with a one-time fee of $165.

However, GradGuard can cover anything costing from $1,500 to $40,000, Pressley said.

Students can receive more coverage, but they would have to call GradGuard directly to request the needed amount, she said.

Since Nov. 16, 161 students have signed up with GradGuard, Pressley said. She said she’s not sure what the total numbers will look like for the spring.

“It’s kind of hard to gauge how many students will sign up,” Pressley said. “We hope that as many students and families that we feel like will benefit from it will sign up.”

The goal is to help ease students’ minds about tuition, to help them feel comfortable enough to pursue higher education, she said. 

“Having this insurance option for them will make it easier … knowing that they have the security of the insurance in place,” Pressley said.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect that the payment is made at one time, not monthly. 

A photo illustration of how to get started, from GradGuard’s website. (Courtesy of News and Reporter)

GradGuard asks users a series of questions to determine the right insurance plan for them. (Courtesy of News and Reporter)