It’s time to change the refund policy

Refund Policy

Kai Brito, Contributor

Imagine this scenario: You’re a new student at Madison College and it’s the first day of class for Fall semester. You’re not sure about which major to pick, so you start with basic classes like Basic Statistics, Introduction to Business, Intro Psychology, College Chemistry 1 and Written Communication.
You later learn that Intro Psychology is not required for any of the programs you were interested in, and quite frankly five courses is too much for your schedule, so you decide to drop the course after going to the first class.
When you go online to your Student Center to Drop Classes, you see that after you dropped the course, you aren’t getting the full amount back. Even if only a day has passed, the current Madison College policy on tuition refunds allows you to receive only an 80% refund if you drop the class before 11% of the class is completed.
However, under the current policy, even if you were to drop the class on the first day, before the class began, you would not be eligible to receive 100% refund. You would need to drop the class before the first day in order to receive the full refund for your class.
This policy is not unique to Madison College. Madison College is a member of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), which is the coordinating and oversight body for Wisconsin’s 16 public, two-year technical colleges. The Tuition Refund Policy is a statewide mandated policy for all technical schools written into the Wisconsin Administrative Code by the WTCS.
In the Technical College System Board (TCS) section, under TCS 10.08, the guidelines clearly state, “[a] student shall receive 100% refund of program fees, material fees and out-of-state tuition for a course, if application for refund is made by the student prior to the first scheduled meeting of the course and the student does not add another course.”
A straight-line reading of this text would lead you to believe that you could drop a class before the first meeting time and receive a full 100% refund. However, Madison College is using additional district policies written in the “WTCS Tuition & Fee Guide FY 2022-23” to prevent students from receiving what they are due.
“[S]ome discretion may be applied when the refund application is made the day the student is first scheduled to attend the class. If taken literally, district staff processing the refund application would be required to compare the time the refund application was made to the time each dropped course started. Districts may adopt policies and procedures which treat all refund requests received on a particular day as having been received at a specified time – for example 12:01 a.m. or 11:59 p.m.”
The last line is particularly interesting because it suggests that Madison College has the power to interpret this ruling in a manner that would be favorable to students but chooses not to do so.
For example, Madison College could choose to implement a policy where all dropped classes on the first day could be treated as having been received at 12:01 a.m. This interpretation of the rule would allow all students to receive a Full 100% refund if they dropped at any point on the first day of class.
So the question I have for Madison College administrators is this: Why don’t students get their full money back after one day of class?
If Madison College has the power to extend the drop deadline for students, which I have established that they do, why aren’t they doing this now?
As students, we have power to influence policies that directly affect us at Madison College. We can demand the administration to create rules that support students in making better decisions for their academic future.
What I am asking for is not unreasonable. All I want is for students to have the opportunity to go to the first day of class and think about whether they really need the class without the concern of a financial penalty looming overhead.
Madison College needs to empower students to make decisions that put them on the path to success, and updating the tuition refund policy would be one way to do that.