Accidental aid angers students

The Office of Financial Aid mistakenly issued unsubsidized loans to several students in the fall 2006 semester and plans to recollect the money from the students’ spring semester aid.Many students are upset they are paying for the university’s errors.

Some students who receive financial aid noticed odd charges on their accounts during the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.  “I was furious and confused when I looked at my aid status and all these charges were noted for the past semester,” said Shanai Davis, an education student from West Palm Beach. “I was scared I had taken out another loan, and my mom didn’t want me to take out too much.”

The financial aid office is deducting money from students’ accounts without notice to correct the error.

“We experienced a computer error that dispersed too much loan money to certain students,” said Carita Evans, financial aid coordinator. “The less(er) amount will be taken from spring aid,” Evans said.

The mix-up has left an unknown number of students with less aid than expected for the spring 2007 semester.

Evans explained that students qualify for unsubsidized loans if the Department of Education (through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) determines a student as independent. 

Students may also qualify if they are dependents but denied a PLUS loan.  Students who do not qualify may have received the loan in a computer error.

Davis’ mother expressed her concerns about the error. She said she wishes the school would have at least notified her of the mistake, which puts a financial bind on Davis this semester.

“I understand the money wasn’t intended to go out, but this puts distress on how we’ll pay for school,” said Teresa Morris, of West Palm Beach.  “They (the financial aid office) could have approached this differently.  A letter would have been nice.” But Evans said there are no plans to inform students of what happened. 

“The staff is fairly new for the most part,” Evans said in defense of not making students aware of the adjustments the office will make to their aid award packages. 

She suggested students visit and keep paper records of any financial transactions. “We know there is an error and many students are concerned,” Evans said. 

But she explained students would receive the correct total of aid between the fall and spring semesters.  Students who received a larger portion of aid in the fall will now have less in the spring in order to correct the error. 

“I hope that the problem doesn’t happen again,” Davis said. 

“Students need to be informed of these problems.”  Davis’ was so unhappy that conversation with her mother included comments of transferring to another university.

Carrine Brinley, 20, a friend of Davis, was unaffected by the error, but said she still has concerns.

“My confidence has gone down (in the financial aid office),” said the junior education student, also from West Palm Beach.  “This makes me scared that I won’t receive aid at some point before I graduate.  It’s not fair.”

Both Davis and Brinley said they filed the FAFSA on time to prevent any problems.

“I have friends at other schools who receive aid within the first week of school,” Brinley said.  However, she said she felt bad about bashing the school.

“I don’t even want to complain because people always hear the bad publicity from our administration,” Brinley said. Evans said she does not want students to worry and said the staff is doing everything they can to prevent this in the future.  Evans and other financial aid staff members said the financial aid should be dispersed to students within a week or so.