“Can I Please Just Have My Refund?”

Historically Black Colleges have been stigmatized as many things, both negative and positive.  The purpose of this site is to elucidate those issues, create dialogue and discuss possible solutions.  Having many friends, family members, and colleagues that have attended hbcus, there always seems to be one thing we all share in common… At some point in our college careers, we have had some issue regarding our refund checks.

A large percentage of students require some type of federal assistance or Pell Grant in order to pay for their schooling.  What’s supposed to happen is that the specific financial aid package covers tuition, room and board and other miscellaneous fees, and any remaining funds are supposed to be redistributed to the student by way of refund check.  Unfortunately, every year, schools around the country become filled with frustrated and broke students awaiting their reimbursements to clear.

However, there seems to be an alarmingly high rate of “incidents” regarding refund checks when it comes to black colleges.  I can recall those awful days of standing in line at the bursar’s office, after receiving the infamous “runaround” and tiredly asking the clerk, “CAN I PLEASE JUST HAVE MY REFUND CHECK?”  Only to be answered that it is being “processed” and will be released (from lord knows where) soon.  Soon turned into a few more days, and days turned into weeks.  Eventually, I grew accustomed to the slow and gruesome process, and thought those days of awaiting refund checks were past me, until I got to my Masters institution.

This second institution, another hbcu, faired relatively better than my first alma mater.  Until my second semester, I realized I had not received my refund check (I thought to myself… NOT AGAIN).  After contacting the bursars’ office it was brought to my attention that my check had been mailed to the wrong address! How is it possible a mistake of this magnitude can be made?  Then I began to think if I was just having bad luck, or if refund “mis-management” was a rampant issue.  I started researching refund checks and PWI’s.. I found they had a system of depositing checks directly into banks, before the semester even started.  I knew that had to be some type of herculean myth or something, until I got to my third institution, a PWI, and got my refund check the first of August, three weeks before school started!!

This academic year alone, widespread frustration has erupted at hbcus across the nation, schools like Howard University and Alabama A&M faced massive protests from tired and frustrated students who only wanted to know, “If they could please just have their refund checks” With that being said, why do black colleges have so many issues with dealing out refund checks?  Is administration at fault, financial aid workers, or is something else at work here?  IS THIS A PROBLEM ISOLATED TO ONLY BLACK COLLEGES?? We want to hear your refund check stories!!

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33 thoughts on ““Can I Please Just Have My Refund?”

  1. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!

    i went to Carnegie Mellon, they had my money on time and in my account before i could even ask for it. i wonder what benefit black schools get from holding money like that. maybe its an HR/workforce issue.

    • Interestingly enough, I am at Carnegie Mellon now. I did experience an issue with the refund check, but that is because my tuition payment went in after the automated refund check day. However, it 100x smoother and easier than at Howard University where I went in undergrad.

  2. I never had a refund check since I cannot qualify for federal funding etc. However, another one of my social work cohorts introduced me to this EXACT same frustration you wrote about today! We used that, along with MANY other issues to start a protest…I am glad to see that other students have been and continue to do the same. There is no reason HBCUs cannot refund students checks in a timely manner. What I believe is happening is that HBCUs are holding funding in a “special” account…I can’t remember the name of it, but I am sure someone will write about it soon enough. Its the same account that grants the professors received and funneled through. What I heard was that the funds were being held so that the HBCUs could gain interest on the monies that were not theirs…Be it the students’ money (refund checks) or professors’ grant funding…With millions of dollars piping through the hands of the HBCUs the longer they hold on to your money the more interest (gains) they are able to make. They have no interest in having a timely refund because that will cut into the profits they were not supposed to have.

    Shaking my head again…sigh…

    • This is precisely what’s happening. HBCUs just are not being funded in the same way that public Universities are. This is just another example of the Black community finding ways to feed itself from within. History show us countless examples of this very thing. As an HBCU graduate myself, I must say that I deeply sympathize with the plight of the students. However, it may be time to move toward a state of becoming more tolerant with our less largely funded and supported Black schools. HBCUs have historically kept their students in the dark about the true reasons behind the refund check delay process. Perhaps the best solution is for our community (African Americans) to begin encouraging and supporting honesty with students about the process.

      • Please note that not all HBCUs are private institutions. Public HBCUs are withholding monies the same way private HBCUs are. This isn’t a matter of bashing but questioning what is the delay. Which you have a right to do when it comes to the state of you buying books for class and food to eat. I don’t expect a student to be ok without eating for a month if he or she doesn’t have a meal plan. Or to be behind in class because it’s intitution has failed to release their monies for books.

  3. I attended both an hbcu and an majority institution. In my experiences, I have only had the same headaches as others in regards to not getting my check on time. However, once I began schooling at the majority institution I discovered that this refund check process did not have to be a headache, instead the process could be very simple. My first week at the majority institution, I was sent an email that had my scheduled date of disbursement, which was dated for the following Wednesday. Exactly a week later I received another email notification alerting me that my funds had been directly deposited into my bank account. You would think I would be elated at the ease of this process, however I was highly upset. I was upset because I was confused of why Hampton made life SOO difficult, I was upset because Hampton gave me the “runaround” when my majority institution took care of everything for me!

    HOWEVER!!!! With all things considered, I appreciate the “runaround” because in that awful experience that hbcu’s give everyone, I learned how to talk to administration in order to get what I wanted, I learned patience, I learned how to play the system, I learned how to get things done in a timely manner to ensure that I had everything on my end in order. Thus, in ALL of the frustrations, headaches, and pain of dealing with administrations at hbcu’s, I tend to look at the values I gained and the tougher skin in dealing with shady administrators..lol

    • Having attended Hampton and UVA (a PWI) I must agree, there is a great difference in the refund process. UVA notified me via email of my loan disbursement and gave me an estimated date of when I could expect my refund to be directly deposited into my bank account– and it was usually earlier than what they suggested. However, the one and only time I got a refund check from Hampton (after receiving a grant at the end of the year) they never notified me. I owed HU $230 and they relentlessly sent statements to my home, however, when they owed me money, nothing was sent. I discovered the grant when I went online to pay them the $230 they kept ‘harassing’ me about. And of course I had to go to Whipple Barn to collect my money (they had taken their $230) that they failed to tell me about; it was not deposited into my bank acct… However, I must agree, having put up with the Hampton Runaround I have developed patience and the ability to put up with other foolishness and frustrations that I encounter in life.

  4. I am white and I attended a small private PWI but I now work at an HBCU in New Orleans. I wasn’t really familiar with the idiosyncrasies of HBCUs until I began at my current position. My students are constantly complaining about issues with money and in particular receiving their refund checks in a timely manner. The really sad part is that many students don’t get books until 6 weeks into the semester because they were waiting on the check. At the institution I came from things were simply direct deposited but at my current institution students are constantly struggling to get what they already have coming to them. While I think Byron makes an excellent point (that the runaround helped him to learn independence) I think it makes the students have a slight disdain for the university and sets the tone among faculty and staff that it is ok to give students a hard time about things. Just wanted to share an outsiders perspective looking in. Love the blog!

  5. Interesting Blog, Dr McClure. I have experienced the wait and the frustrations, but I am thankful as well because I can now speak with administration and resolve issues before they happen (in most cases…lol) Through my observations, I find that a lot of the times it was the students that initially made the mistake then they’d blame it on the administration.

  6. Unfortunately, this is a problem with majority HBCU institutions. I went to Indiana University for my Masters and they were on point with money. I feel it goes back to the Administration issue that most HBCU’s endure.

  7. I am a Grad student at Hampton University currently in this frustrating position. I was told I would get my refund two days after my loans were disbursed ( I still have the email from student accounts). After the two days were up I went to the student account office, and was told I would get my refund no later than Friday. Today is Thursday, I call just to make sure I got the right information, now they are telling me I wont get my refund until the following Tuesday. I am so angry I don’t know what to do. Is there any way to pressure them into giving me my refund sooner?
    This is my first HBCU. I am very shocked as to how they handle they financial aid and refund process. It seems like most of the people in the office aren’t sure of what is going on. I am the type of person that makes sure I get everything that I need done in a timely fashion. I also worked at a loan company, so I knew everything I needed to do for my financial aid process as far as signing my MPN etc.
    Prior to this I went to Penn State University. I believe I got my refund the first day school started. Needless to say I am confused by this process. It almost makes me want to transfer to another college.

    • Dear Angry Grad Student,

      I know this process is extremely infuriating. The worst part about it is that there is hardly ever a valid explanation as to why the process is so drawn out. You are now going through what we all know as the “Hampton Run-Around.” The Hampton Run-Around is exactly what you are describing above, they tell you to go check at another building or say your paperwork or refund will be available in however many days, only to find out that your being lied too.

      As frustrating as the process may be, YOU have to be the calm and patient one. As you have stated you have done everything under your control to make sure you get your check in a timely fashion, unfortunately there are larger powers at work here beyond your control. Remember, even though the workers in financial aid may not know what they are doing, you still have to be cordial and friendly to them. By my junior year, I befriended the bursar and several other staff in financial aid. Once I established a relationship with them, I started to notice I was getting my checks a little earlier.

      My advice, this semester may be a little slow getting your check just hang in there and every week be sure to follow up with someone in the office. For next semester before classes get started go to financial aid and explain to them that you are grad student and you need your money in an expedient manner, and be sure to ask if there is anything specific you need to do to make sure you received it on time. This may seem superflous and you may have already done everything, but this gesture will make them want to help. Then send a follow up e-mail thanking them for their time. Also check the school sites disbursment calender, before the actual date of dispersal send another email or go in in person and see if yours has been disperesed if not be sure to rectify any problems.

      I hope this helps a little. Let me know how it works!

  8. I used to think HBCUs waited until their drop/add period was over to ensure students don’t essentially “take the money and run.” I’m not sure how that works, logistically speaking. Some schools may wait until students can receive a zero percent refund on their classes. If this was actually the case, why wouldn’t administration just explain that to students ahead of time instead of leaving them hanging? And furthermore, why would the university care? Just give the kids their money.

    • I totally agree. There is only one problem, students have to pay the funds back if it doesn’t include Pell Grants or scholarships. The majority of these students are taking out Federal Loans (Stafford Loans, etc). Who can make these decisions for students who leave the program after they receive their refund? In the end, the student still have to pay back the $$$

  9. As of today classes at my HBCU have been in progress for 1 month and 8 days. There has not been a peep as to when our refund checks will be dispursed. Furthermore, the school terminated 20 staff members on yesterday because of “budget cuts”. Needless to say this came as a shock to the the staff and students. I feel like something fishy is going on. Does the school have a deadline from the government to issue checks? Is there an agency that investigates these types of issues?

    • What needs to happen: Those who are concerned (like myself) need to write to the Department of Education in Washington, DC, and let it be known that our schools are being discriminated against.

      • Spelman college and Morehouse are two of the worse offenders. They hold students refunds with no explanation. It amazes me that so called elite institutions can’t manage to facilitate this process. This is the computer age. The click of a button could process a refund. They are trifling and incompetent. If I had it to do again they wouldn’t get a dime of my money. They should pay interest to students after 30 days for holding their money.

  10. Receiving a refund check weeks/months after classes have started is a major issue in HBCU’s. Where does the problem start? Who is to blame. Those attending HBCU’s need to put up a fuss, especially, if the government have them sign on the dotted line stating that they agree to pay back the funds in a timely, manner. I went to a HBCU for my undergraduate degree, and I did not qualify for a refund, but when I attended a PWI, I received my refund before classes start. Currently, my daughter attends a HBCU, lord behold, she received a partial refund months after classes started. Again, who is to blame. My next step is to write to the White House to see why this is occurring because it has gotten out of hand and will not stop until we put a stop to it….

  11. It’s amazing to visit this site and reading the views of all mates concerning this article, while I am also zealous of getting familiarity.

  12. I seldom comment, but i did a few searching and wound up
    here Can I Please Just Have My Refund? | State of HBCUs.

    And I do have 2 questions for you if you do not mind. Is it only me or does
    it appear like some of the responses appear like
    they are coming from brain dead visitors? 😛 And, if you
    are posting at other online social sites, I would like to follow anything fresh you have to post.
    Could you make a list of every one of your public pages like your Facebook page,
    twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  13. Someone above mentioned writing the Department of Education. Would anyone know who exactly to write to? Like what department there? I think that is a great idea!

  14. I always had mixed results at my alma mater, FAMU. The fall semesters always SUCKED. I’d get to school in August but not get my stipend/refund check until late October.

    The spring semesters was the exact opposite. I often got my check about a week after classes started.

    I’ve never understood how that happened. Needless to say, spring time was a lot more fun.

  15. I attend Southern University at New Orleans and we are now going on a month of school and still haven’t recieved a refund. I’ve contacted the comptrollers office several times and it has been excuse after excuse and most of the time they don’t answer the phone. They lie and tell the students anything to get them to stop asking where is the refund money.

  16. Why does this have to be about race? I’ve gone to multiple Universities/Colleges – some with acceptance rates as low as 13%, some as high as 80%, none classified as “black schools.” All of them have taken weeks or a month to distribute refunds. There needs to be a regulation covering ALL higher education institutions to promptly distribute refunds.

  17. I am at Duke University, and they take a while to give refunds. I got mine a few weeks into the semester. Another friend got his about 6 weeks in because he did not set up direct deposit. I got some runaround and talk about “processing” too. So it is not only at HBCUs.

  18. If you’re refund is coming from a guaranteed federal student loan, or a federal grant program, these are held until the middle of each semester as per federal rules. These rules are applied only at HBCUs. Why? Discrimination, plain and simple.

  19. Associate degree at Eastern Florida State College, Melbourne FL- I had a split semester 2 classes through Oct. and 2 going through Dec., My Math professor forgot to turn the final grades in. Within 8 hours of receiving a F from the auto generated system, I was withdrawn from my classes, received a demand for payment in full, and my financial aid was cancelled for the remainder semester. I had to get a 2nd job since I was out a $2500 refund, and once it was all straightened out (3 weeks), I was severely behind in my Calculus class and had to do double time to catch up while working a 2nd job. I was supposed to receive my refund check Oct. 17 it came Dec 20th

    Florida State College Jacksonville FL- During the summer I moved to Jacksonville to start my Bachelors degree. Supposed to get my refund July 17th, didn’t receive until Sep. 5th. The problem was registering for fall classes at end of July messed up my refund. After calling the school and voicing my concerns they assured me they never apply summer financial aid towards fall classes. Well they screwed up and said sorry. At this point I’m so used to getting screwed over by the system I’m used to it. I don’t even plan on the refund and assume they will screw it up.

    • Yes me too! Wow I have waited that long too I swear in 2016 things got worse with our schools. It’s like terrible now! Sorry you had such crap luck!

  20. I am white and been having the same problem we can go anywhere into 4-7 weeks into the semester and no refund. For instance, I am now 5 weeks into my Spring semester and some students have received their refunds but some like me still nothing. Fall semester it was 7 weeks until I saw something. They forgot to direct deposit my refund “supposedly”. I really think they enjoy hanging on to our money and drawling interest on our funds. Or the school spends it and they do not have all the money to give everyone at once like they should be doing. Something isn’t adding up! The colleges get the money so they know for sure they are being paid so students do not misuse funds and can’t pay their tuition I get that. But obviously colleges can’t be trust too bad on a student who would misuse funds. But I say our money should now be turned over to the student first. Because this has become so stupid and way out of hand. It is obvious the colleges are abusing our money! This is a problem at many colleges not only yours. Thank you for the blog! Finally someone who understands the crap we go through:(

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