Loan situation leaves more uncertainty

The recession is over. That’s what everyone is telling us. However, when you’re feeling the direct effects of said recession, it’s not really over. As a fifth-year student who has been working my way through school, I have been receiving loans to help pay tuition for the past few years. As of about three days ago, I was on track to be awarded a final $2067 in the Spring before I reach my maximum loan amount.

That was until I received an email from the financial aid office stating that I have been “over-awarded” in student loans and that they are taking back the student loan I was awarded this semester. As a result, I suddenly owe Tech approximately $1673 and will no longer receive the $2067 toward tuition in the Spring that I have been expecting.

Apparently, the Department of Education miscalculated the amount of money that I received in the amount of $3740. This seems odd given the fact that for the past year, I have been right on track with reaching my loan maximum this Spring. According to OSCAR at the beginning of this semester, I had not reached my maximum loan amount, and now suddenly it has been determined that I exceeded it.

I hate to say it, Department of Education, but to me, this sounds like a scam. I find it hard to believe that the computer system you use to distribute loans has miscalculated by such an extreme amount.

Even if, by slim chance, this miscalculation did in fact occur despite the countless programs that I’m sure the Department of Education uses for these calculations, how does it make any kind of sense to hold me accountable for such a huge mistake that I had no part in? If I had $1700 sitting around, I wouldn’t have needed student loans in the first place.

I can somewhat understand them cancelling my loan that I was supposed to receive in the Spring, but asking me to pay $1700 this semester (when the semester is already halfway over) is ridiculous.

Why did it take them so long to catch this mistake? How exactly did this “miscalculation” occur? Do they not double check that the amount of money they are dispersing is the same as the amount that should be dispersed? How is it justified that I am to be held responsible for this mistake? Simply sending me an email stating that I now owe a large sum of money is not going to incline me to pay it. However, if I decide not to pay it, a hold will be put on my account that will keep me from registering for my last semester of school. This isn’t a great situation you’ve put me in, guys.

Before the end of the Spring 2010 term, every student’s “My Student Award Letter” was accessible via OSCAR, and a copy was mailed to the permanent address the school has on file for each student. When I received this document, it contained the amount of money I would be awarded during the 2010-2011 school year, along with the total loan amount I had been given to date. Both the 2010-2011 awards and the to-date awards stated that I was on track to reach my maximum in the Spring (my last semester). This made sense.

At the very least, the Department of Education has had four months to discover this mistake before the start of the Fall 2010 semester when the award is dispersed. Now it has been five months, including half of a semester, and I am just now being informed of a mistake.

I realize that there are a lot of loans dispersed every year. While that does make room for error, one would think that the Department of Education would make sure that they are dispersing the correct amount of money to students. Under-dispersing loans: maybe. Over-dispersing loans by nearly $4000: unlikely. In a time when money is tight, institutions are much more aware of their money flow.

Money is tight for them, I’m sure. However, I can guarantee that money is tighter for me.

If I didn’t know any better, I would say that this situation is an excuse to collect more money from students that shouldn’t be collected. Of course, there is no way for me to prove that the Department of Education is in the wrong. There is no way for me to prove that I don’t actually owe them any money. For all I know, numbers were changed in their system to reflect that I now owe money.

Until I get an explanation for exactly how and why this happened and why I am being held responsible for a huge mistake I did not make, I am going to stick to thinking that there is something a little fishy about the whole situation.