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Can a school charge you for expenses paid for by a Pell Grant


Question: I was a student at Emily Griffith Technical College I dropped my classes because of health reasons. The Pell grant paid for most off my classes but I knew I would have to pay the Pell grant some of the money back, but Emily Griffith says I owe them.

I have been trying to get them to show my how I owe the money for the past year, two of the ladies in the treasurer’s office said they will not go over it with me. I have tried to contact others in the department but haven't heard from them.

The financial aid office said I shouldn't owe the school anything because Pell paid out $2500 this is why I owe the Pell Grant because they pay for school expenses. I have now been sent to collections and still no answers. If they refuse to explain how I owe them do I still have to pay?

Answer: There are several actions you can take but the first one would be to put your request in writing. That way you have a paper trail of the actions you have taken in order to attempt to resolve the matter before making a formal complaint.

Keep good records.  Send a written request to the financial aid office of your school via certified mail. Your request should be simple. Ask what comprises the balance, along with a detailed calculation of how that balance was determined including any added fees and interest. Give them 10 business days to get back to you.

Next, send a validation request to the collection agency once they contact you in writing. Click here to get a sample validation letter. But if and when you do send a debt validation letter to the collection agency, do not wait for them to get back to you because they may never respond to a debt validation request.

Only wait for the school to respond. If they do not respond within 10 business days; and, if they do respond but you are not satisfied with their response, then you should take your concerns and complaints to the Ombudsman of the Department of Education.

Functions of the Department of Education Ombudsman

The Ombudsman will research your issues with the school along with reviewing any supporting documentation you provide. They can work with you and the school or other offices within the Education Department to resolve the issue.

The school is highly unlikely to ignore the Ombudsman. Be prepared when contacting the Ombudsman’s office. The most important action you can take to prepare is to know what outcome you desire. And, make sure you present them with sufficient evidence, such as the above letter I spoke of, to show you have competently tried to resolve the issue. If you have names and numbers of the specific people you spoke to make sure to provide that information also.

Here is the link for more information about the Ombudsman and how to contact them: https://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/disputes/prepare. The best of luck to you.

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