NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Colleges Waste Health Fees

May 7, 2014

Health insurance at most colleges costs between $800 and $1,500 per year and student health fees vary, but it is unclear what students are getting for their money, writes Jenna Robinson, director of outreach at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

Funded by campus health fees and student insurer payments, university health centers are awash with resources. And with the Affordable Care Act in place, all students must now carry insurance. Health fees and insurance costs vary from school to school:

  • At Harvard, the student health fee is $958, and health insurance is $2,190.
  • The health fee at Stanford is just $573, yet the health insurance plan will cost a student $3,936.
  • At Arizona State University, the fee is just $40, while the health fee is $820 at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
  • At most schools, insurance costs between $800 and $1,500 per year.

What are students getting in return for the health fees that they pay?

  • At some schools, the fees cover costs that are already covered by insurance, such as primary care visits. At the University of North Carolina, for example, the health fee is listed as supporting unlimited primary care visits, while its student insurance benefits also include complete coverage for preventive care.
  • At the University of Florida, the health fee funds the Counseling and Wellness Center. The Center performs outreach on diversity issues, social justice, and international initiatives. One of the Counseling and Wellness Center's initiatives is "Que Pasa," a workshop allowing students "to reflect on issues that matter to them." It also conducts a number of diversity presentations.
  • At Harvard, the fee gives students discounts on massages and acupuncture at its Center for Wellness. The Center also provides workshops on aromatherapy, meditation, and knitting, and it hosts an online "virtual relaxation room."
  • Stanford's health center offers a semester-long happiness course, and UCLA's health center provides free yoga for students with irritable bowel syndrome. UCLA also has a MindBody Clinic, where students can receive acupuncture and massages to "unwind from the daily stresses of being a college student."

As college tuition continues rising faster than inflation, parents and students should be aware of where their money is going, Robinson says.

Source:  Jenna Ashley Robinson, "How Colleges Waste Your Health Fees," Minding the Campus, April 30, 2014. 


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