Students speak out as Darton addresses financial aid issues -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Students speak out as Darton addresses financial aid issues

Staff members attended the meeting (Source:WALB) Staff members attended the meeting (Source:WALB)
Officials answered questions about financial aid (Source:WALB) Officials answered questions about financial aid (Source:WALB)
Lindsey Gay, student (Source:WALB) Lindsey Gay, student (Source:WALB)
Stephanie Lawrence, Financial Aid Director (Source:WALB) Stephanie Lawrence, Financial Aid Director (Source:WALB)

Students at Darton State College are upset about financial aid problems costing them money and impacting the educational plans.

The Financial Aid Director addressed concerns during an open meeting Wednesday afternoon.

She said the school is making sure issues, which arose from using a paper system and a workforce stressed by turnover and ongoing audits, don't happen again.

The school has since digitalized its record keeping system, but some students are most worried about the money they're being asked to repay. 

Just weeks before graduation, Darton student Lindsey Gay is supposed to be focused on finals, but instead she's scrambling to repay financial aid money she was over-awarded. 

"I have three kids who are expecting Santa to show up Christmas morning and this is a devastating financial blow," said Gay. "Unless I release this money, they will not release my transcripts." 

For Gay that's a problem.  Her bill has now spiked by $1470.  She hoped to attend Georgia Southwestern State University in January, but now says she can't. 

At the Wednesday meeting, school officials said they sometimes let students get their transcripts for employment and board testing, even if they owed money, but those decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.  

"This is a result of a student enrolling for the term and the students enrolling and receiving aid for the two terms and financial aid not being notified that the student was going to apply for graduation," Financial Aid Director Stephanie Lawrence said.  "Once, we receive those notifications, we are required by regulation to prorate those loans." 

Gay said, that to her knowledge, she has followed every necessary step allowing Darton full notice of her intent to graduate. Now, she doesn't want to pay for a mistake she didn't make.         

"How does Darton forget that you're graduating," Gay said. "We had to apply this semester to graduate. We had to pay our graduation fee. We had to send in our application. So, I find it very hard to believe that they somehow did not realize that we were all graduating."  

As graduation nears, Gay adds that she wants the problem resolved quickly, because, as an older college student looking to enter the workforce, time is far more valuable than money.

Gay said she knows of about a dozen classmates who found out they have to pay back similar amounts. She said they did not find out from an official financial aid message, but by looking at their accounts after hearing issues others were facing.

School officials said notifications would be sent out soon.

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