FSCJ board asked to approve Pell grant repayment plan

College officials meeting Tuesday to discuss student grant issue

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Florida State College of Jacksonville's board of trustees is being asked to give students more time to repay Pell grants given to them by mistake.

Earlier this month, the interim president proposed a 90-day grace period for repayment of Pell grants given in error by the college's financial aid office. On Tuesday afternoon, he'll ask for the board's approval of the repayment plan.

Students unhappy with the repayment plan originally planned to speak at Tuesday's meeting, but now say they won't attend.

Randy Durden, who started a petition drive opposed to the plan, said FSCJ president Willis Holcombe called him and invited him and other students to speak at the meeting.

Durden said things are at a standstill right now, and their attorney advised them not to go to Tuesday's meeting.

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

Durden is still fired up over a mess he's found himself in with his school.

At the beginning of the semester, Durden, along with several other students, went to register for classes, but were told they couldn't because of a financial hold.

Durden's account showed he owed $1,600.

The school said the mix-up was over students who applied for a financial aid appeal and the school gave them their financial aid back.

"The reason this is happening is because of a financial aid appeal," FSCJ student Katelyn Matchett said. "I failed my very first class that I ever took and had to file an appeal, and since then, I have passed every single class. I have been taking a 3.6 GPA. I was even on the Dean's List last semester. I take responsibility for failing that class, but if I wasn't going to get financial aid after that, I could have done things differently."

Holcombe said Florida statute requires the school to go after all student debt.

He acknowledges the school has made a mistake and is asking the board this afternoon to approve a 90-day grace period to remove the financial hold, which locks students out of getting transcripts and registering for classes.

"Federal financial aid is very complex and it changes every year," Holcombe said. "We apparently didn't keep up with all the changes and it didn't do very well there either."

Holcombe recently took over as the school's interim president after former president Steve Wallace resigned amid questions over the financial aid issues and other management issues.

Durden said he believes Holcombe walked into this mess and that he's really trying to help. He is hoping that this 90-day grace period is approved at Tuesday's meeting.

Copyright 2013 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.