Grant error costs students

Brian Close

Sascha Matuszak

Students opening their mailboxes to find windfall grant payments this quarter better hold on to the money.
The maximum amount of Minnesota State Grant money was mistakenly paid by the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid to all recipients, including those that did not meet the 15-credit requirement.
Those students who do not have 15 or more credits and still received the full amount should expect a bill requesting the return of any excess grant money.
About 2,500 students of the nearly 4,500 recipients of the Minnesota State Grant were affected.
The mistake occurred when a computer program was not run properly. The program adjusts student awards for those who have less than 15 credits, making grant money proportional to the number of credits students take.
“We regret the error, and we are doing everything we can to make the correction as immediate as possible to lessen the impact on the students,” said Mary Sue Gilbertson, associate director for systems at the office.
Grant money deposited directly into a student’s bank account was not withdrawn by the University.
Instead, the office billed students’ STARS accounts Thursday. The adjustments will show up on the billing statement mailed to students this quarter, and any paybacks will be due Feb. 6.
The office has also mailed a letter to students, notifying them of the error.
Some students, such as Dan Maruska, a junior in history and economics, had been planning to use the money to take care of various bills.
“It hurts a lot with housing and books,” he said. “I was planning on paying off my credit card bill.” Maruska said the office will ask him to pay back about $250.
“It is a little more than unfortunate,” he added.
Torry Westlund, a sophomore accounting major, said the mistake was not unusual and expressed an annoyance with the office.
“It is just the regular financial-aid runaround,” he said. “I have a full-time job; it is not going to affect me.”
Gilbertson said officials are working to ensure the problem doesn’t happen again.
“We’re looking at our procedures in the office to make sure that we are double-checking certain computer programs before they run on key dates,” she said.
Students with any questions should call the financial aid office at 624-1665.