As a result of gender-based violence, many student survivors suffer financial costs that undermine their ability to access an education.
When a school violates Title IX and denies survivors the services and support they need to recover, students can spend thousands of dollars on necessary counseling services or on rent for an off-campus apartment. Some survivors have to withdraw from classes, losing tuition and risking increased student loan debt if they re-enroll at a later date. And if victims fall below half-time enrollment, they often need to begin paying their loans—a tall order for individuals without a degree, already struggling with the effects of trauma.
Here’s what you need to know about survivors’ current rights in this area and proposals for reform:
Survivors have the right to access accommodations free of charge.
According to the Obama Administration’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), if you require counseling or other accommodations to continue accessing your education after experiencing violence, you should not be required to pay for these accommodations.
Specifically, if your school knows or reasonably should know of a hostile environment, it has a responsibility to take “prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the sexual violence, eliminate the hostile environment, and prevent its recurrence.” That means, your school should provide you certain accommodations, like counseling or tutoring, for free.
If your school doesn’t provide you the accommodations you believe you’re due, know that: 1) you’re not alone, and 2) you can push back against any school decisions and choose to consult an attorney.
Survivors may be entitled to tuition reimbursement from their school, which should include student loan interest.
In some instances, schools are required to reimburse survivors for:
- lost tuition;
- expenses incurred due to violence;
- and/or accrued student loan interest.
According to the Obama Administration’s OCR, “The scope of a school’s responsibility is tied to the scope of a school’s culpability.” For example, when your school’s failure to remove your perpetrator from your class meant that you were forced to take classes with your perpetrator for several weeks and your grades suffered, or you had to take time off from school as a result, your school should reimburse your lost tuition or allow you to retake the class free of charge. Or, if you needed counseling to stay in school and your school denied you access to it such that you had to take time off from school, your school should reimburse your tuition. In contrast, if your school takes prompt and effective steps to eliminate the violence and prevent its recurrence, your school would not usually be expected to reimburse lost tuition and related expenses.
OCR has made clear that it may require schools that violate Title IX to reimburse survivors for lost tuition and related expenses. As a result, making a request to your school through an attorney may be the most effective way to compel action from your school when other attempts to secure reimbursement and accommodations have been unsuccessful.
Survivors with student loans can reduce their loan payments by enrolling in income-based repayment plans.
If you are thinking about taking a leave of absence, leaving your school, or transferring schools, you might be concerned about what will happen to your student loans. We’ve compiled a resource with your options for student loans here.
What We’re Saying
- Alexandra Brodsky, The Washington Post: “How much does sexual violence cost college students every year?”
What We’re Doing
- In September 2016, we worked with Rep. Jackie Speier to send a letter to OCR that proposed reforms to make the student loan process more survivor-centered. You can read OCR’s response here.
- In 2014, we wrote a letter to OCR asking them to clarify whether or not survivors should be charged for the accommodations they need to access education. The Office for Civil Rights responded and concurred that schools should pay for interim remedies and reimburse survivors for lost tuition in certain instances.
- Laura Hilgers, The New York Times: “What One Rape Cost Our Family”
- Dana Bolger, Yale Law Journal: “Gender Violence Costs: Schools’ Financial Obligations Under Title IX”
Although these resources have been written with the guidance of legal experts, we are not lawyers, and the information on this website does not constitute legal advice. We encourage you to contact a lawyer to discuss your complaint or suit.