Student Financial Services - Title V - FAQs
California State University
Refund Policies - Implementation Guidance
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What is the effective date for the change in the refund policy and when is the latest date for implementation? Must all of the provisions for the revised policy be implemented at the same time?
These amendments to the California Code of Regulations took effect on December 14,2001 when they were filed with the Secretary of State. Since the revision of the CSU refund policy was being made in the middle of an academic year, the regulation includes provision for a transition period that ends with the beginning of the fall term 2002.
Campuses may elect to implement some aspects of the revised refund policy prior to the fall term 2002. An example would be to cease requiring that students file a written application for a refund. Another example would be the implementation of campus defined refund policies and procedures for self-support sessions or courses for summer 2002 courses or special sessions.
Q. How does the revised refund policy relate to Executive Order 740, the CSU Student Fee Policy, and the various fee types defined in the Executive Order?
Executive Order (EO) 740 relates to setting all fees, the Title 5 change relates to refunding some fees. The refund policy, §41802 of Title 5, governs the refund of mandatory fees and nonresident tuition. “Mandatory fees” are defined for purposes of the regulation as “systemwide fees and campus fees that are required to be paid in order to enroll in state-supported academic programs.” Executive Order 740 defines Category I fees as those fees that must be paid to apply to, enroll in, or attend the university. Category II fees are defined as fees to pay the full cost of instruction required of some students by statute (i.e., nonresident tuition.) These two categories are clearly governed by the refund policy in §41802.
Category III fees are defined as those fees, other than Category I fees, paid to receive materials, services or for the use of facilities provided by the university, or to enroll in a course offered through a self-support instructional program. The regulations (§41802(d)(3)) delegate authority to the campuses to establish policies and procedures for refunds of tuition and fee chares for self-support, special sessions and extension course. Refund provisions for other Category III fees, typically “user fees”, are not addressed in §41802 to the extent that they are not “mandatory fees”. To the extent that many of these fees are for services and for materials that are “exhausted” through use, they could appropriately be considered nonrefundable. If the fees are collected in advance of receipt of materials, service, or use of facilities, they might be considered a “deposit” and therefore subject to §41802(d)(3) of the regulations. Because of the wide range of Category III fees, campuses are in the best position to determine whether or not these fees should be subject to refund and the conditions under which they are refunded. Campuses could elect to make refunds of certain Category III fees according to §41802, for administrative simplicity, or to make appropriate refunds based on another formula. A principal consideration should be designating which Category III fees are subject to refund and the policies and procedures for any refund.
Category IV fees are defined as fees or deposits to reimburse the university for additional costs resulting from dishonored payments, late submissions, or misuse of property or as a security or guaranty. §41802(d)(3) of the regulation addresses refunds of Category IV fees.
Q. Does the new policy mean that our “Transit Fee” must be refunded even though the student has the decal and identification card that provides the privilege to ride the buses and light rail for the nominal amount paid in the form of this mandatory campus fee?
The refund policy governing your “Transit Fee” depends on whether or not it is a “mandatory fee” as defined in §41802. If the fee is mandatory, the refund must be made, provided the student follows campus-established procedures and deadlines for canceling enrollment or withdrawing from the university. The campus may, in conjunction with procedures for canceling registration or withdrawal, require that students return certain evidence of enrollment that entitles them to services or privileges for enrolled students (e.g., the transit decal and identification card.)
If the Transit Fee is not a “mandatory fee” within the meaning of §41802, the campus has flexibility with respect to the conditions for issuance and “recall” of the decal and identification card as they relate to potential refund of the transit fee. The campus could require return of the decal and card as a condition for a refund or it could treat the fee as non-refundable with the student continuing to receive the benefits of the fee even though the individual is no longer enrolled. Campuses may wish to ensure than any negotiations with external entities regarding services for or discounts to enrolled students address cancellation of enrollment or withdrawal from the institution.
Q. How is the length of the academic term or the enrollment period determined?
For purposes of the refund policy, the length of the academic term or enrollment period is determined by the number of calendar days (excluding any breaks of five days or more) from the first day of instruction in the term or period through the last exam day in the period. For individual “short” courses within an enrollment period, the number of days for the course is determined in the same manner, beginning on the first meeting day of the course and ending with the final class meeting or exam day. Since breaks of five days or more would be excluded from for purposes of determining the length of the course, “weekend” classes would not include the intervening week-days in the course length.
Q. Has the pro-rata refund schedule been determined?
There is no “schedule” or table of pro-rata refund amounts. The pro-rata refund calculation will be determined individually based on the length of the term or course, the withdrawal date, and the fees paid and subject to refund.
Q. The policy states that a student must cancel registration or drop all classes prior to the first day of instruction to receive a full refund. On our campus, the system is not available from Thursday-Sunday for students to drop classes. Can we permit students to cancel registration (drop all classes) on the first day of instruction and receive a full refund?
The regulation is clear that full refunds are reserved for students who cancel registration or drop all classes prior to the first day of instruction. The campus should ensure that students are advised, when registering for classes, of the last date on which they can cancel registration and still receive a full refund. This date need not be the day immediately preceding the first day of instruction.
Q. Does the revised refund policy apply to financial aid recipients who are subject to the return of Title IV funds policy?
The revised refund policy applies to all students without respect to their receipt of financial aid. The calculation of the portion of funds “earned” for the return of Title IV funds provisions for aid recipients enrolled in state-supported semesters, quarters, and non-standard terms or courses of four (4) weeks or more should correspond with the calculation of the amount of the fees that the institution “earned” for purposes of the refund calculation for those students.
Q. Will additional guidance be provided about the “exceptional circumstances” under which refunds can be granted based on a student petition?
The regulation stipulates that the chief financial officer of the university or designee may authorize a refund based on the petition of a student or an authorized representative if the official determines that the tuition and/or mandatory fees have not been earned by the university. The revised refund policy extends the length of time into the term that a refund may be made and any student who withdraws prior to the sixty percent point in the term will receive a refund of some portion of fees paid. The university will also have incurred costs associated with the student’s planned enrollment that may be far greater than the costs associated with the portion of the term for which the student was registered or enrolled.
Each campus is responsible for establishing procedures whereby a student or an authorized representative may petition, under exceptional circumstances, for the refund of fees or nonresident tuition on the basis that the university did not earn some portion of the fee or tuition that is not subject to refund under the provisions of §41802.
Q. It is not clear how to deal with situations where medical conditions and death cause a student’s withdrawal. Are withdrawals under these circumstances subject to a pro-rata refund up to the 60 percent point or a full refund at any time during the term?
No specific provision is included in the regulations to address situations where the student’s cancellation of registration or withdrawal is the result of medical conditions or death of either the student or a family member. In situations involving health or death, the general refund regulations are applicable as is the provision permitting petition for and granting of a refund under exceptional circumstances.
Q. How is the “campus-designated drop period” determined? How does the drop date relate to the census date? How do the drop period and the census date relate to the 60 percent point in the term?
The “campus-designated drop period” referred to in the regulation is established by the campus for each state-supported semester, quarter, or non-standard term or course of four weeks or more in length. Since fees and tuition for state-supported non-standard terms or course of less than four weeks are not subject refund unless registration is cancelled or the course dropped prior to the first day of instruction, there is no need for a designation of drop period for refund purposes for these short terms or courses
The “census date” for CSU enrollment reporting purposes is the point at which official enrollment counts for the term are captured. For sessions that are equivalent in length to semesters or quarters, census dates are defined as the close of business on the 20th day of instruction in a semester and the 15th day of instruction in a quarter. The “census date” for a non-standard term (i.e., a term not equivalent in length to a semester or a quarter) is established by the campus.
Executive Order 792 includes a couple of references to the census date and related constraints on the campus-designated drop date. In defining the “W” (Withdrawal) grading symbol, EO 792 states that withdrawal from a course (or courses) may be permitted during a time period “established by the campus that shall not extend beyond the census date.” The provision further indicates that withdrawal (W) grade symbols may be assigned “after the census date and prior to the last twenty percent of instruction” only with certain permissions.
Campuses have established “drop periods”, “add-periods”, and “add-drop periods” in order to accommodate schedule changes required on the part of students and the institution. It is presumed that, in large part, prior establishment of the “drop periods” was essentially dictated or determined by the refund policy that permitted a full refund of fees up to the 14th day of term. Many campuses established “add periods” that extended a week beyond the “drop period” in order to permit schedule adjustments to compensate for students who dropped classes (i.e., allow students who couldn’t get the class/session they originally wanted to take the place of a student who dropped the class/session)
The revised refund policy does not permit students a penalty-free, 14-day enrollment period. Prospective students must be made aware that registration for classes at the CSU – unless cancelled prior to campus-established deadlines – will involve a fee.
It is essential that campuses publicize the change in the refund provisions and highlight any changes in associated campus processes.
The official CSU “census date” used for reporting purposes should not be confused with various dates and deadlines that campuses establish and utilize for registration, enrollment, grading, and refund purposes. The 60 percent point in the term that is used as a “delimiter” for purposes of refunds and the return of federal Title IV financial aid funds need not have any bearing on either the CSU census date for reporting purposes or campus designated drop periods of other administrative or academic deadlines.
Q. Our state-supported summer term includes multiple sessions of varying lengths. Is this considered a summer semester or are the individual sessions considered non-standard terms? How should refunds be determined?
Enrollment for state-supported summer terms that do not correspond to a regular semester or quarter will present challenges. It is likely that students who register for these terms will face differential treatment for CSU fee refund and return of Title IV financial funds purposes.
Q. During our regular semesters (i.e., fall and spring semesters of 15-16 weeks) we provide students an opportunity to include in their enrollment individual courses that take place during the semester for shorter periods (e.g., 3, 6, and 9-week long courses). How are these courses treated for purposes of refunds? How are changes in enrollment treated for purposes of return of Title IV funds?
Both refund and return of Title IV student aid fund calculations will depend largely on the computation and display of assessed fees.
Q. Students frequently add and drop classes after the first day of instruction. Is it anticipated that the campus will make a refund after each drop and then charge the student if another course is added?
It is anticipated that campuses will attempt to accommodate changes in scheduling that are made in accordance with campus prescribed procedures and within a defined schedule adjustment period at the beginning of each term. Procedures and timeframes for schedule adjustments, including reference to fee payments and refunds, should be made known to all students or prospective students in advance of their reserving space and paying fees. Campus procedures might rightfully provide that no refunds will be issued until the end of the period for schedule adjustments or “x” days after that date.
Q. Students who cancel registration or drop all courses prior to the first day of the academic period will be entitled to a full refund of tuition and mandatory fees. Does this mean that there is no withholding of a charge for administrative expenses?
Technically, the administrative charge withheld from a refund will be treated as a Category IV fee under Executive Order 740.
The administrative charges that were in place in December 2001 when the CSU refund policies were revised are being “grand-fathered” in as Category IV fees for each campus at the level previously authorized by the Title 5 regulation. These levels are:
Systemwide and campus mandatory fees
- (attributed to the State University Fee) - $5.00
- Special session fees - $10.00
- Extension course fees - $20.00
Any changes to these authorized fee levels should be made in accordance with the provisions of Executive Order 740.
Q. The regulation states that, with the student's concurrence, the institution may carry a credit balance on the student's account for a future semester. Does the institution have to carry credit balances?
No. The provision is permissive and is intended to ensure that the institution has the student’s concurrence to carry the credit balance rather than making any required refund directly to the student.
Q. There appears to be the potential for inequitable treatment. The student who drops only some units during the designated drop period and is subject to the “Adjustment of Registration” provision is eligible for a full refund of the difference in the two SU fee levels or the difference in the applicable nonresident tuition. The student who drops all courses or withdraws by the designated drop period only receives a pro-rata refund. What if the student who received an “Adjustment of Registration” refund subsequently drops all remaining courses or withdraws by the 60 percent point in the term - is only the balance for the part-time fee pro-rated or does the campus compute the pro-rata refund on the basis of fees originally assessed for the term?
Student A enrolls for 9 units, paying the $714 State University Fee. The student drops 3 units by the ending date of the designated drop period which is 14 days into the 110 day semester and receives a refund of $300, the difference between the $714 fee assessed for regular enrollment (more than 6 units) and the $414 fee assessed for limited enrollment (6 units or less.) The student was subject to no financial penalty (other than a drop fee that might have been imposed by the campus) for dropping a course within the campus-designated drop period and remaining enrolled for the term.
Student B also enrolls for 9 units, paying the $714 State University Fee and withdraws on the same date, 14 days into the 110 day semester. Student B was enrolled for 12.7 percent of the term and is therefore eligible for a refund of 87.3 percent of the fee or $623.32. Student B paid a fee, net of refund, of $90.67 (or $10 per unit) for utilizing university services associated with his or her planned enrollment for the term and the actual 14 days of registration.
Student C enrolls for 6 units, paying the $414 State University Fee for limited enrollment and withdraws 28 days into the 110 day semester. Student C was enrolled for 25.5 percent of the term and receives a refund of 74.5 percent of the fee, $308.43. Student C paid a fee, net of refund, of $105.57 (or $17.60 per unit) for utilizing university services associated with his or her planned enrollment for the term and the actual 28 days of registration.
If Student A, after receiving an “adjustment of registration” refund within the drop period, subsequently withdraws 28 days into the term (the same as Student C), Student A would be subject to the same pro-rata refund at the time of withdrawal as Student C.
Campuses may wish to review timeframes associated with the establishment of the campus-designated drop period if there are concerns about potential inequities associated with implementation of the revised refund policy.
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