Tuition must be paid to enroll in classes

Students who have tuition debt may face challenges when trying to register for classes this spring. Florida A&M University is reinforcing its policy of requiring students to pay all their tuition fees before registering for a new semester.

“Students were repeatedly amassing high debt,” said James C. McMillan II, special assistant to the president.

A review was performed of fiscal policies last spring. The university noticed it was allowing students to roll over debt from semester to semester. As a result, this put a strain on the university’s ability to fund campus activities and pay other utilities, McMillan said.

The university’s accounts receivable balance is currently over $13 million, as stated in a letter from D’Andrea Cotton, associate director of student financial services. This figure accounts for 5,913 students with unpaid fees.

FAMU is directly impacted by nonpayment of these fees.

Unpaid fees affect stadium maintenance and garage services. For example, the transportation and access fee goes toward improving student parking and roads, Cotton said. Failure of students to pay only raises their disapproval of facilities.

Student activities fees also determine the number of concert events and club meetings allowed.

“When the university’s accounts receivable is high, students don’t benefit from added amenities,” Cotton said.

Cotton said when students fail to pay tuition fees, they usually are not faithful in giving back to the alumni association after graduation. “We want students to respect the university and to value its meaning to them,” she said.

College alumni and current students may find their debt hinders them from advancing beyond FAMU. “Students with a balance are often denied access to an official transcript or a diploma,” Cotton said. Often, employers and companies request these documents for hire. FAMU reports students to creditors after 120 days of nonpayment, which directly affects student credit.

“I will most likely have registration problems this spring because my financial aid is not straight,” said Tashay Wright, 20, a junior pharmacy student from Orlando. She was charged fees as a graduate student although she is an undergrad. “The registrar’s office should not prevent students from registering until student accounts and financial aid get on the same page,” Wright said.

The Florida Department of Education holds the university accountable for unpaid fees.

“This means that fees have to be paid whether students pay them or not,” Cotton said. In the past the university was forced to “cut back on other programs” in order to cover unpaid student fees, she said. The university is determined to eliminate that practice.

The Office of Student Financial Services is suggesting three options to students who are in debt, Cotton said. Students can secure an outside loan, may be eligible to receive money from existing funds through the university or work a job to pay off their debt.

Tightening the current registration policy is geared toward “building a new fiscal culture at FAMU,” McMillan said.

Cotton agreed, saying the university wants to remain “sensitive to student needs while supporting the wholeness of the school.”

The Office of the Registrar expects 100 percent of individual student fees to be paid prior to spring registration. This fall, students who have debt will be issued a letter in the mail from Student Financial Services stating their fees prior to spring registration.

Early registration begins Nov. 6 and all fees must be paid by Jan. 12, 2007.

“We are trying to enable students to pay as they go,” McMillan said.

Students are advised to visit Student Financial Services in Room G7 of the Foote-Hilyer Administration Center for questions and concerns. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.