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Students complain about financial aid refund and scholarship processes

By Cheryl Daniel, Editor-in-chief
On November 6, 2020

NEW ORLEANS (November 6, 2020) – Biology junior Lauren Petry was happy to see an $814 refund this semester. Two weeks later, however, she was notified the university wanted it back.

Petry, a biology major from Biloxi, Miss., is not alone in her frustration with refund and scholarship processes. Other students have complained about being surprised when book vouchers take away a credit or course fees are deducted.

Denise Spellman, director of financial aid and scholarships, said scholarship cases may vary. Some may cover tuition, books and/or room and board, but if other resources are received, it could reduce the amount of the Dillard scholarship.

Spellman said this can occur with university, presidential and athletic scholarships.

Petry said she has had problems with her student account since the spring semester. A university scholarship recipient with full coverage for tuition, room and board and books, Petry also received a federal Pell Grant.

“It is not uncommon for me to receive a refund [but] this year, my account was just all messed up,” said Petry.

After she received notices of an unpaid balance via email from Business and Finance, she said, she went in to discuss the hold.

“They then referred me to Financial Aid, who then referred me back to Business and Finance. I kept getting the runaround,” she said.

“I can’t pay all that money back. I have outside expenses that I need to take care of,” said Petry.

Petry said she contacted Student Government Association President Traelon Rogers, who referred her to David Page, vice president of Enrollment Management. Page contacted Spellman, who found a scholarship from the United Negro College Fund to help Petry with the charge.

Petry said the hold is still on her account and she’s afraid she won’t be able to pre-register for classes. (Students can request a temporary release on a hold to pre-register for classes.)

Petry is not the only student having problems with his or her student account.

Justin Baker, a senior criminal justice major from Toledo, Ohio, said he had enough scholarships to cover his account balance and receive a refund; instead, he said, he has a balance of more than $1,500.

Baker was a recipient of the SAFE Fund, but he said the monies were removed once he received multiple outside scholarships.

“I should have received a refund a long time ago,” he said. “A lot of us students depend on refunds to get by.”

Baker said he visited Financial Aid multiple times and was told the office couldn’t help.

“The lack of communication and transparency from Financial Aid is irritating,” said Baker.

Bursar Gwendolyn Britton and Spellman said they both have an open-door policy and encourage students to ask questions about their accounts.

Britton said most problems occur with direct deposit.

“Students fail to update their banking information. This often causes a delay in the student receiving a refund,” said Britton.

Students are eligible for a refund if their student account has a zero balance after all fees have been paid.

Spellman said some scholarships are affected if a student receives funds in excess of the total cost of attendance.

“Each student has an allocated budget that accounts for tuition, books, travel and miscellaneous items,” she said. “Financial Aid is mandated by the federal government to stay within this budget.”

To remain in compliance, adjustments must be made to students’ accounts, she said.

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