Students may need to spend their refund checks more wisely.
As part of an experimental program, SIU had previously been given a waiver by the U.S. Department of Education to apply future financial aid awards to past debts for students, Chancellor Rita Cheng said. SIU President Glenn Poshard could not confirm how long the experimental program has existed at SIU.
However, the department has taken away the waiver. Effective fall 2012, if students have a hold on their bursar account, their future aid award will not be applied to it. The financial aid office sent an email to students notifying them of the change Monday.
Cheng said this is how most universities function, and the intention is to get students to be more responsible with paying their bills on time.
“It puts more requirements on the individual student,” she said.
The university had no say in the decision, nor did the Illinois House of Representatives. It was a decision of the department. As a result, Cheng said students can’t enroll for classes if they have a hold of more than $500 on their account.
“When we issue refund checks, students need to know that if they have a past bill, they need to pay that,” she said.
Casey Baker, a senior from Carbondale studying elementary education, said the problem with refund checks is students spend them in other ways. She said if the board wants students to be more responsible with refund checks, it should be better implemented.
“If they’re trying to get us to pay off our bursar bill, then apply that refund to the bursar bill and create a credit system instead of giving us money,” she said.
Her brother, Alex Baker, a freshman from Carbondale studying chemistry, said he has a hold on his account and is worried about getting it paid off for next semester. He said he thinks if parents received the refund check, they would apply it to the bursar bill more responsibly.
One student who doesn’t have a hold on her account is Stephanie Carter, a senior from Enfield studying elementary education. She said she doesn’t think it’s fair the aid can’t be applied to past dues. Using herself as an example, Carter said she took 19 credits last semester and is taking 12 this semester. She said last semester was a lot more expensive for her, so it doesn’t make sense that she shouldn’t be allowed to apply aid to the previous credits.
Poshard said he doesn’t think the implementation is fair either. He said it will make it harder on the middle- and low-income families who are trying to put their kids through school.
“These students need the greatest flexibility we can give them in order to stay on as a student here,” Poshard said.
He said he thinks applying future aid to past debts helped students rather than hindered them.
“I wish they would have left it like they had it,” he said.