Living in a residence hall is an easy way to quickly spread germs. Not only are people in close quarters, but students’ immune systems are weakened from a lack of sleep and stress, especially around midterms. When students do get sick and have to miss classes, they have to work around professors’ preferences for making up assignments – which often isn’t as easy or accommodating as it could be, especially when it comes to getting doctor’s notes.
Class attendance is a significant part of students’ grades in some classes, so professors require doctor’s notes before they let students miss class or make up an assignment without a grade penalty. But each trip to the Colonial Health Center costs $30, which is an out-of-pocket expense for students, unless they have GW health insurance.
Getting official proof of an illness isn’t affordable, and having a cold doesn’t always warrant a trip to the doctor. It is fairly easy to tell the difference between having a bad cold that requires extra rest and fluids and needing professional medical attention. It still may be best for ill students, and their peers, to skip class when they’re sick, even if they don’t need to see a doctor.
Professors can help make sure germs don’t spread and that ill students aren’t overwhelmed by missing class by not requiring doctor’s notes. Getting official documentation is an undue burden on ill students, so professors should be more flexible.
Going to the Colonial Health Center is especially expensive for low-income students. If GW wants to shed its image of being a “rich kid school,” officials should eliminate extra costs, like the Colonial Health Center’s.
The appointment expense isn’t necessarily Colonial Health Center’s fault. Although the $30 cost may be high for some students, having a flat appointment rate allows students go to the doctor for any number of reasons. If there were to be different prices for different types of appointments, scheduling appointments and the process to check in and out would be trickier.
The Colonial Health Center should lower costs for shorter visits. Peer institutions, like Boston and Emory universities, don’t have appointment fees at all. At BU, students aren’t charged unless they need a physical exam or additional services. At Emory, medical visits are included in students’ cost of attendance. Like our peer institutions, GW should find a way to either reduce prices for certain services or include medical coverage in our overall cost of attendance.
Clearly, this is a prominent issue on campus. A few Student Association candidates have even made it a point in their platforms to lower Colonial Health Center fees. Ideas that have been floated by candidates include waiving a fee for appointments at the Colonial Health Center that are less than 15 minutes and free notes for class excuses.
If it’s unreasonable to change health center costs, professors should instead not require sick notes. It’s understandable that professors want sick notes – they don’t want to waste time on writing make-up exams and don’t want to give students a free ride to skipping class. But if students are really sick but don’t need a doctor or can’t afford to see one, professors should be understanding and not require an excuse.
Realistically, most students will get sick one or two times during a semester. And in many cases, students don’t want to miss a class or test. Although there will always be students who manipulate the system, most just need flexibility when dealing with an illness. But when students feel that they need to attend class, even if they are sick, peers are more likely to catch that illness. GW should help students stay healthy, and both the Colonial Health Center and professors can help do that.
Sara Brouda, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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