In the ever-changing reality of COVID-19, no one can predict precisely what the global impacts of the pandemic will be or how long they will last. Currently, the most significant barrier for Fall 2020 international student recruitment and enrollment is the apprehension from natural parents surrounding the possibility that their child will not be able to travel to the US in the fall to attend classes. Additionally, parents are wondering what the plans are in place for international students with these concerns in mind and what assurances can be offered, including possible refunds.
Our team has noticed nearly a 15% decrease in student deposits (returning and new) compared to this time last year due to the fear of natural parents not being refunded their money should COVID-19 travel restrictions or visa interview delay in the months to come. The demand for US education is still high, as many Cambridge schools continue seeing applications come through. Still, the delay in students accepting offers and placing deposits requires immediate action and school policy updates.
Cambridge Network has recently established an amendment to our enrollment contracts offering refunds of Cambridge Network services in a worst-case scenario of students not being able to obtain visas or travel to the US. We will, however, try to leverage other solutions and strategies to keep the student engaged and enrolled at your school, including:
Preparing & Communicating Summer Homestay Option
It’s in the best interest of students and schools to stay in the US over the summer months. Given the current complications with international travel, students may choose to extend their stay with the current host family or transition into a summer homestay program to avoid difficulties with traveling at this time. This also guarantees a smooth return in the fall in line with other domestic students.
If your program is not able to offer summer residential solutions, we hope you consider leveraging Cambridge Network’s homestay and academic services, including 1-on-1 tutoring with our qualified instructors.
Extending Fall Arrival Dates
Adding flexibility to student arrival dates is the easiest solution to implement but needs to be defined by establishing a clear policy that students must arrive by a specific deadline. If students are unable to come by the outlined date, an alternative policy must state what other options are available.
Enrollment Deferral to Spring 2021
Like student arrival extensions, deferring student enrollment to spring offers a more structured approach to student transition and enrollment at your school. The key objective here is ensuring the student is continuing their education elsewhere for the semester gaining approved credit hours for their transcripts. To learn more about how to prepare for 2021 international student recruitment, check our new article here.
Virtual and Distance Learning Options
As a final consideration, leverage any distance or virtual learning available to your school or an approved third-party provider who can issue approved and accredited transcripts. This is a great solution to keep students engaged and in alignment with your school’s program requirements while enticing them to attend in-person once their visa is in hand.
Last Resort: Flexible Refund Policy
Cambridge Network has already updated our policies so that if any student is not able to obtain a visa due to COVID-19, we will offer a complete refund of our service fees. We now ask the same for our schools nationwide to join this effort.
Whether for returning or newly enrolled students, update your international student policies for Fall 2020 to reflect these possible scenarios should COVID-19 continue causing global travel/visa delays.
It’s our hope that for any reenrolling students’, refunds will not be a request, so long as distance learning is still an option. However, for newly enrolled students, refund requests may occur if natural parents don’t approve any of the above solutions. Schools should be prepared to have a wide range of flexibility and solutions.
If you or your team need assistance in drafting policy language, please reach out to your Cambridge Network Program Manager (PM) or visit our COVID-19 resources page on our website.
Visit our blog section to learn about industry trends, international program best practices, ways to engage students, and more.
For schools looking for more information on Cambridge Network and our services, please submit an inquiry form.