Colleges are hard to maneuver, and the internal processes that may seem obvious and logical to those involved with their designs often end up abandoned for reasons beyond anyone’s control. The "purging" process is a great example of one such problem that affects institutions deeply in a place where some need it most: the bottom line of their budget.
Usually, right around this time of the year, colleges will drop students who are not "paid in full" for the fall term. That process forces administrators to make gut wrenching decisions to enforce college policy, while sometimes watching millions of dollars disappear from the balance sheets. Rules must be followed and students must pay, but HOW an institution decides to handle this process will determine its short and mid-term success or failure.
By following this type of process, students are dropped from classes and their enrollment is cancelled, which then results in a barrage of calls from students attempting to re-establish their status with the college. However, paying is just one little part of the process. Students who have been dropped will then have to re-register and perform many other tasks just to return their status with the institution to a working order. Students' schedules will no longer match their expected schedules with no little to no notice, and they will have to invest additional time and effort just to return to full matriculation status. Institutions would argue that students failed to follow the process, and ultimately, the onus is on the student to follow through. But sometimes, the students just make a mistake. The larger question becomes, Do you want those students enrolled at your institution? If the answer is yes, and we expect it is, it is in your best interest to handle them with care. Here is a list of what you should consider:
- Don’t drop students who owe you less than $500.00.
- Don’t drop students at all! Apply a fake drop to students or set a deadline prior to the real deadline and make it look like you dropped them. Those interested in returning will call you, and when they pay, their courses and statuses are back just like they were before.
- Don’t use email. Use text messages to communicate the urgency of the need. Handle it as you would an emergency.
- Resist every tendency to treat students in default as second-class students. They are your students and they need help.
- Resist those who tell you that dropping students for non-payment is part of their education. Education is expensive and writing big checks is scary. Students (and parents) will delay it as much as they can.
We've seen many college professionals love the ideas listed above, but not act. That usually happens because no one feels that this is within the capabilities of their area, and the idea evaporates. On the flip side, however, we have been part of teams where offices and decision makers work closely to serve every student, and the actions related to these practices paid handsomely.
We encourage you to pay close attention to this process, and save your institution from missing on an opportunity to retain students who simply need a nudge. They are worth it.