This weekend, Jeff Foot and I will be heading to Scottsdale, Ariz. to attend the Community Colleges for International Development conference. We are extremely excited about this because community colleges compose a large part of our international student insurance business. Many of these institutions have been clients for more than two decades. Because of this, we believe we understand the challenges of community colleges better than any of our competitors.
Enrollment at community colleges has created more competition amongst community colleges, which now seems to be at an all-time high. Fortunately, the value of a community college education remains foremost in the public’s mind as state universities struggle with rising costs due to their states having fewer tax dollars to allocate. The national average cost for an academic year at a four-year state school is $16,000 for domestic students, while the cost for out-of-state tuition at a community college is slightly more than $8,000, and half of that for in-state students.
For international students, the political climate has taken a toll on enrollment, but the value of an American education is still high for these students. The challenge for the international office at community colleges is not only to recruit international students, but to keep them in school.
One of the unique things about community college is in many cases, their international students are not covered by a mandated group health insurance plan. This is different from state universities because most of them require health coverage for international students, often mandating ACA-compliant plans. Per IRS guidance, international students do not have to comply with ACA-compliant plans. Please see our related blog on “Two Approaches to International Student Health Insurance”.
Some states require community colleges to provide health insurance coverage, while others do not. Some of these colleges that don’t mandate coverage will sometimes offer a link to an insurance company or two on the school’s website for international students to check out. Now, put yourself in the shoes of an international student where English is your second language and you get a website link to buy an insurance policy in our extremely complex U.S. healthcare system. It’s confusing for most Americans, much less international students.
Why is this significant?
As Jeff Foot mentioned in his blog, most of these students are on F-1 visas and have strict, limited financial budgets. An unforeseen illness, accident, or intramural injury could cost these students and their families several thousands of dollars. Most of these students’ families do not have this kind of money which, in turn, would likely force the student to return to his or her home country. Or, in some cases, the student may skip the health care bill altogether, which has a significant negative impact on local health care providers. A mandated group plan not only protects the financial well-being of the student and family, but protects the reputation of the school. A mandated insurance plan covering the community college’s international students could mean a student is only out of pocket with a small copay and helps him or her stay in college and not return to their country because of an unforeseen health bill.
If you are going to Scottsdale this weekend, stop by our booth and say hello. We would be happy to talk about any number of things, including how to retain your international students. Or, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or my colleague Jeff Foot at email@example.com. Hope to see you soon.
Author: Jeff Crawford
Jeff is vice president of The Lewer Agency’s LewerMark Student Insurance division. He is also a member of the Lewer Life Insurance Company Board of Directors. Jeff joined the Lewer Companies in 2005 as director of student insurance. Lewer is a Global Partner with NAFSA and Jeff has been a featured speaker at both regional and national conferences. He also has a BS in Marketing from Kansas State University. Jeff is an avid sports fan and has been a Chiefs season ticket holder for 30 years. He enjoys spending time at the lake in Northwest Arkansas with family and friends as much as possible. Jeff and his wife Kim have three children who have all graduated from college and are gainfully employed.