UAFS Corrects Clerical Error over Financial Aid

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A financial aid mess at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith leaves students upset and the university scrambling to fix the problem.

"I got an email saying I had over $1,250 in the bookstore for financial aid," Myranda Christianson, a junior at UAFS, explained.

Christianson was one of about 150 students who got the same email before second semester started saying they had financial aid money available, according to Dr. Paul Beran, the Chancellor.

"They sent me an email saying I had around $1,250 available to spend at the bookstore," said  Caitlin Parker, a third year nursing student.  "I needed books, so I got really excited. I printed it out and took it to the bookstore and they checked it and they were like, 'Yeah, you have $1,250 to spend.' So I spent, I think $700 of it - $693."

Later, those students found out they got that email by mistake.

"Then a couple of weeks later I get my bill for the month and it's a lot higher than it should've been. So I itemized it, and that $693 showed up on it," Parker said.

Parker, along with all of the students who had gotten the email, were then asked by the Department of Financial Aid to pay back any money they had spent in two weeks. If they didn't, they were told that they would have to pay late fees.

"I didn't know where I was going to come up with the money so quickly," said Shelby Osborne, another student at UAFS. "It was just really stressful. I mean the position they put us in was just totally unfair. And it was their mistake in the first place."

Dr. Beran says the school became aware of the problem last week, and realized it was a mistake made within the Financial Aid Department.

"What we had was a human error in programming back in December," Dr. Beran said. "That human error caused a glitch in our administrative system which controls all of the financial aid and billing for students."

Beran said students will not be held accountable for any of the money they spent.

"I just don't think its fair to hold the students responsible for a mistake that we made administratively," Dr. Beran said. "Thus we are holding them harmless."

Some of the students who were told to pay back the money already have. The university is still figuring out how to get their money back to them, according to Sondra LaMar with UAFS.

Beran said in total the mistake cost the school about $3,300.

Beran said no one will be fired as a result of this mistake.