Editorial: The Bursar’s Hold Blues


There aren’t many emails in this world that can match the adrenaline rush and sense of animalistic panic that come with seeing a “bursar’s hold” email in your inbox. 

It’s something that not every student at Lehigh will get the pleasure of experiencing during their tenure here. The lucky few who receive the blessing of the “bursar’s hold” email know just how insightful and endearing the automated message can be. 

The email explains in plain language that you (in most cases) have a past due balance on your bursar account and a hold will be placed on your account “preventing registration, receiving a diploma and accessing transcripts, etc.”  

That “etc.” presumably refers to a section of the Lehigh Financial Responsibility Agreement (a document all students are forced to sign to register for classes) that reads: “Lehigh University expressly reserves all rights and remedies that are available to it at law…” 

Spooky, right? 

If you thought that was scary, just wait till you get the follow-up email from the bursar’s office informing you that “accounts that are not financially cleared by [date]may be dropped from their [semester]courses due to non-payment.” 

Sure, as far as debt collectors go, that’s a pretty polite email, but to a student who’s still learning the extent of their new financial responsibilities and trying to navigate their first semester of college, the threat of an unpaid bill keeping them from attending classes might as well be a ransom note. 

It’s not like we are ignoring these emails out of apathy. But they get lost in the sea of notifications we receive every day from the university. After a while, the automated emails just feel like noise, until one day you’re hit with the threat of your negligence keeping you out of school for a semester.  

It is not lost on us that practicing financial responsibility comes with a learning curve. As adults, we’re expected to read and respond to the university’s commands whether they come from automated emails or not. 

But navigating our own financial responsibilities for the first time can be incredibly overwhelming and particularly isolating at a private school like Lehigh. 

First things first, the overuse of automated emails has to stop. 

They’re a great way to gently inform students that they have unfulfilled financial requirements. 

But as the automated emails keep rolling in and the student doesn’t reach out to the office or take steps to clear the hold, that has to be a sign to the bursar’s office and financial aid office to take further action to connect with the student. 

For many students, the financial aid office at Lehigh can be a valuable resource for finding alternative ways to pay for tuition, whether through loans or scholarships.

However, the automated emails don’t instruct you to contact your financial aid counselors for releasing the hold other than, “Please resolve your past due balance as soon as possible.”

We should be striving to connect students with their financial aid counselors long before a hold threatens a student’s registration. 

Firstly, it gives the student a better idea of the steps they need to take in case of a future hold. Secondly, financial aid counselors won’t be bombarded come time for registration after not hearing from students for a whole semester.

After a few automated emails, the bursar’s office should send another email informing the student who their financial aid counselor is, or even mention the financial aid office as a resource for the students. 

Alternatively, the university could be more active in connecting students to their financial aid counselors. 

As it stands right now, no contact from your financial aid counselor is the best-case scenario, because usually if they reach out it means something is wrong or something is missing.

However, financial responsibility can be a daunting task for many students, and there are many opportunities for errors and misunderstandings. 

Sure, not all students will need to take advantage of the connection with their counselor, but for the ones who do, fostering that relationship from the beginning of their Lehigh career will be incredibly valuable.

Fixing a hold that’s been placed on your account doesn’t have to be an isolating and confusing experience.

As it stands now, the communication systems in place to help students fulfill financial obligations to Lehigh are leaving too much room for students to fall through the cracks.


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