New policy affects student refund checks

After sending out $75,000 in refund checks for the fall semester, UNA decided to implement a new policy regarding university based scholarships beginning spring 2018.

The new policy states if a student receives institutional scholarships exceeding the amount of tuition, books and on-campus housing, there will not be a cash refund check sent back to the student.

For now, this only includes academic institutional scholarships. The change in policy will not affect service scholarships, such as those for the LaGrange Society.

Evan Thornton, vice president for Business and Financial Affairs, said the new policy affects less than 1.3 percent of the student body. The university sent those the policy affected an email Sept. 25.

For students that have a Pell grant and an institutional scholarship, the institutional scholarship will be allocated to the cost of tuition on the front end. If any Pell grant money is left over after the total cost is paid, the student will receive a refund check. The result is the same for students who have a scholarship from somewhere other than UNA, including endowment scholarships. The new policy only affects scholarships UNA provides.

Thornton said the university gives institutional scholarships to students under the assumption the student graduates in four years. If a student decides to take 12 hours instead of 15 hours, students can use the excess amount the scholarship creates for summer classes, but it will not be given back in the form of a refund check.

The same goes for students who decide to live at home instead of on-campus. If a student does not use that money toward on-campus housing, then they will not receive the extra money.

“If I am giving you a full-scholarship, I don’t want to take that money and give (it) to an apartment complex downtown,” Thornton said.

Junior Maci Gassaway said even though her refund check may help out with rent, it also helps pay for her child.

“Whenever I don’t get that money back, that’s extra shifts I will have to take away from my child to pay for things,” Gassaway said.

The university made the decision to implement the new scholarship policy in the middle of the school year in hopes students coming to the university fall ‘18 would not receive the wrong impression.

Students the new policy affects can still receive a refund check based on the individual’s circumstance. The verbiage the university used in the new policy states institutional scholarships are nonrefundable and may not result in a cash payment to students unless the Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs gives prior approval.

Junior Thomas Parker said the university should not be able to control where the scholarship money goes.

“If you earn the scholarship, you should get to use the remaining money however you want to,” Parker said.

Thornton said he assures students the university has their best interest in mind.

Thornton and the Student Government Association will meet Oct. 12 to discuss the details within the new policy.

Thornton said he encourages students to call or email the office of Business and Financial Affairs if they have any questions about the new scholarship policy.