Leave of Absence Tuition Refund Policy Places Financial Burden on Students

Sara Michael ’23
Design Editor
March 5, 2020

Last year, the National College Health Assessment (NCHA), a nationally funded research survey, published a study showing that 54.9 percent of undergraduate students reported that they didn’t believe that they were in good health during the school year. The transition to college can often spark a explosion of mental health issues. 46.2 percent of students reported that they felt so depressed that it was difficult to function anytime within the past 12 months.

Scripps College continually expresses and emphasizes their support of student health. Detailed under the Student Services portion of the college’s website, it states that “Scripps College believes in a comprehensive, holistic approach to promoting the emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing of its students.” The Field House has implemented “Be Well Fridays” and “Fresh Check Day,” in an effort to bolster mental health awareness and support.

These are great initiatives to invest in, and they are undoubtedly important in spreading understanding about wellness, but there are certain messages in the student guidebook that contradict the school’s own mission about wellbeing.

Whether it is voluntary or involuntary, there are many reasons why a student takes a leave of absence. Taking a break from college might have great potential value because it can potentially serve as more time with a sick family member or time to focus on recovery and self care.

Unfortunately, Scripps’s policy deters students from taking leaves of absence because of the refunding process. According to the Scripps Directory, “Tuition 100% refunded except for $500.00 up until the first 10 days of classes. Tuition 50% refunded from the 11th day of classes up until the 30th class day. Tuition 0% refunded after the 30th class day. There is no refund for the room.”

The cost of rooming amounts to $9,584. Students who can’t afford to have the huge financial burden of withdrawing or taking a leave of absence are at risk of jeopardizing their health.

Emergencies are often out of our control. Taking a leave of absence is already a huge temporal and emotional commitment, and the added financial pressure can exacerbate a student’s stress.
Samantha Quach ’23 had a moderate concussion with symptoms of numbness, fatigue, headaches, nausea and more. As a result, Quach missed classes for two weeks. She considered taking a leave of absence for a while, but ultimately decided against it.

“I have had a more difficult time with getting through to administration,” Quach said. “After discovering [the refund] policy, I concluded that taking a medical leave was no longer a viable option since I could not afford to lose that much tuition money at an already extremely costly school.”

While the administrative protocol and rules for withdrawals and leave of absences don’t align with the school’s stated mission to promote health and well being, Quach said that there are resources at the Claremont Colleges, such as Student Health Services, that have been incredibly helpful in her recovery.

“SHS was integral in helping me navigate my concussion and its effects on my academic performance and overall well being,” Quach said. “I am going back next week for my fourth checkup with an SHS nurse practitioner since the incident. Each appointment has been extremely helpful and at no cost to me.”

It’s important that Scripps matches their policies to their public statements about their stance on self care and well-being. One of the ways to do this is to be more forgiving with the refund process for leaves, which Pomona College demonstrates well. Their handbook states, “The forfeiture of the fees deposit does not apply to students who take a Health Leave of Absence or a student placed on an involuntary leave of absence.”

Removing Scripps’s policy will potentially remove the stigma around leaves of absence for mental health reasons because it reinforces the idea that nobody should be punished for prioritizing their health and wellbeing.

Image Credit: Jasmine Sloan ’23