The Florida State College at Jacksonville Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to approve a 3 percent tuition increase for the 2012-13 school year, and school officials also announced details of a mistake that could cost students millions of dollars.
According to Steve Bowers, FSCJ vice president of administrative services, the tuition hike adds up to an extra $100 a year, increasing tuition from $3,000 to $3100. The hike affects full-time students.
Meanwhile, FSCJ appointed an independent investigator to figure out how nearly $3 million in federal loans were incorrectly given in the 2010-11 school year to more than 700 students. Those are loans the students will have to pay back to the U.S. Department of Education.
Students were given a letter advising them they had to pay the money back, hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars.
The school is conducting an audit of loans for the 2011-12 year, which means more students may get one of the letters and will have to pay back money they received for school.
Jim McCollum, chair of FSCJ's Board of Trustees, blames a handful employees for being overly compassionate and using bad judgment when they incorrectly approved millions of dollars in federal financial aid before receiving the proper paperwork from students.
"Many of the cases can be resolved," FSCJ President Steve Wallace said. "Students can provide the required documentation. The ideal outcome here is to clear the cases. The students won't owe the college any money, and the college won't owe any money to the U.S. Department of Education."
To fix the problem, the college has hired an accountant to review every case where an error was made. Also, the independent investigator Bill Scheu's report is expected by the end of July.
After that, the school may discipline the employees who broke the rules.
"Some were just trying to do the right thing to help students," McCollum said. "We don't know the results of the investigation until it's over."
Students who have received one of the letters have 30 days to contact the school and submit the proper paperwork if they can. If not, they'll have to set up a payment plan.