Students to take action against FSCJ

College wants students to pay back student aid that should have never been given

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Millions of dollars in debt are at the center of a major disagreement between Florida State College at Jacksonville and about 1,800 of its students.

The school wants the students to pay back federal student aid the college never should have approved in the first place.

Students are now taking action against the school.

FSCJ student Katelyn Matchett is one of the students scrambling to find out more about the thousands of dollars she owes to the college, a debt that has locked her out of registering for classes.

"It's just stressful. It's a very, very, very stressful situation," Matchett said. "This is my future."

That money -- $4,163 -- was a grant and was already spent on tuition.

"I totally freaked out," Matchett said.

The college's financial aid office granted an appeal to about 1,800 students whose federal grants were being questioned. An audit showed the school had no right to grant those appeals. It had to pay back $4.2 million.

Interim President Will Holcombe said going after the students for that debt is required by Florida law.

"Which says that we must do everything within our power to collect a debt," Holcombe said.

That's not good enough for students like Randy Durden, who owes $1,600.

"If you mess up, then oh well," Durden said. "Don't look at me to pay your problem. I'm not going to pay it."

Durden has started an online petition to try to convince the school to absorb the debt. He's also started a Facebook page and, with other students, plans to file a class action lawsuit against the school.

"They've not only done me wrong, they've done 1,800 other students wrong," Durden said. "And this isn't just for me, it's for everybody."

Durden said he and his fellow students feel the school lacks compassion.

"We do have compassion for their situation. We're trying to act that way," Holcombe said. "Does compassion mean we're going to forget about it? We can't do that."

What the president says he can do is allow the students a 90-day grace period to sign up for a payment plan, interest free up to 10 years, and then they can keep going to school and get their transcripts.

He said he's not waiting until a board meeting March 12 to get board approval for that plan. He's just doing it. The 90 days started Friday.

Students said they will be showing up to that board meeting to voice their opinion.

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