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Department error delays student aid

A misunderstanding between the Office of Student Financial Assistance and several student lending agencies has caused many students to receive letters requesting loan payments, even though they have not graduated.

For example, senior Jessica McClish said she received a loan repayment schedule when she followed up with her lender about a loan to pay the rent on her off-campus apartment and cover some tuition costs.

They told (lending agency) Sallie Mae that I graduated and they sent me a payment schedule that started in November, she said. I called Sallie Mae and they had me classified as `graduated.’

McClish also said she knows three other people who have received payment schedules because GW told their lending agency they graduated.

Helen Klepac, associate registrar, said the Registrar’s Office is aware that there is a problem, and it is doing everything it can to correct the problem.

Dan Small, director of Student Financial Assistance, said the U.S. Department of Education requires schools to periodically send out enrollment verifications. Small said this information is compiled by the Registrar’s Office and then placed on a disk, which is then sent to the Department of Financial Assistance.

Financial Assistance is responsible for transmitting the information to lending agencies, but is not responsible for the information on the disk, Small said.

When enrollment statistics were transmitted to lending agencies for the summer semester, some agencies mistook the summer semester enrollment statistics as fall semester enrollment statistics and sent bills to students who were not enrolled in the summer semester, Klepac said.

Many of the problems were remedied by contacting the lending agencies and informing them of the mistake, she said. If students still have problems, they can submit a letter to the Registrar’s Office, and the office will contact the student’s lending agency and inform it that the student has not graduated and is still enrolled at GW, Klepac said.

McClish’s loan payment was sent from Sallie Mae to the University, which used the money to cover expenses on her tuition account and then GW sent her a check for the remaining amount, she said. McClish said she is not sure where the breakdown occurred.

She also said she felt the University has not been responsive to her situation.

I’m pretty much out of money, I’m hoping that one to three weeks is this week, said McClish. I e-mailed them and said `I’m going to have to turn tricks on New Jersey Avenue if I don’t get that money.’

After the University acknowledged the confusion, she said she was displeased by GW’s answer.

Their response was `Be patient, we’re sorry for the mix-up and please don’t go to New Jersey Avenue.’

-Kate Stepan contibuted to this report.

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