POSTED: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - 4:12pm
UPDATED: Friday, May 27, 2011 - 1:42am
BATON ROUGE, La (NBC33) — An area mother of three says a local college owes her money, and she hasn't been able to get it back. She's not the only one. Other students are having the exact same problem.
When Demetrius Hall started taking classes at Baton Rouge College, she never expected to fall into debt. "From the moment I stepped into that college to enroll, to know that I was literally a victim, that was just troubling."
Hall qualified for financial aid, meaning she'd get a refund for loans taken out in her name. The refund never came. "I have not seen a dime," she says. "Every time I call for information, nobody knows anything."
Hall says she started getting billed for classes she wasn't taken. Frustrated with the school, she decided to drop out. That was on March 1, 2011. Three weeks later, another loan was taken out in her name. "I have done everything that I could to at least get somebody to explain to me, why are you still taking money from me and I'm not a student there?" she says.
Hall says she's written letters, made phone calls, and contacted everyone she can think of in the administration to get answers. She met with the school's CEO, Paul Dykes, but now, she says he's avoiding her calls.
"He avoided my calls all day yesterday. I left messages. He doesn't answer emails. He doesn't answer voicemails. Nothing," she explains. "If you're running from me and I'm a student and you can't answer my questions, I've got to believe you're hiding something."
Hall says she asked to see her financial aid files Monday. She says an employee denied her that request. It's school policy that every student have access to financial aid and academic records. "I could not look at my file. I could not make copies. I could not look at my financial aid file," she says.
NBC33 received calls from other students with a similar problem, but they did not want to be interviewed. "They're afraid to talk," explains Hall. But she says she's not scared. "I'm not afraid, whether I'm a student there or not, because right is right and I don't want this to happen to anybody else. Its not going to stop."
Hall says she's contacted the Better Business Bureau, the Department of Education, and the College Accreditation Board. She says an employee with the Accreditation Board wants to investigate.
CEO Paul Dykes says he's aware that students are frustrated with the financial aid process. The school recently lost their financial aid director and he attributes the back-up in refunds to the absence of that position. The school has a consulting group working to fill that position now. "We're not here to hold people's money," Dykes says. "We're here to make sure that these individuals and these students are comfortable where they can come in academically and learn."
Dykes also addressed Hall's situation. He says people who drop out of college have to go through a stringent process to receive their money back. He was surprised to learn that she said he was avoiding her calls. "I'm available. I'm on campus. I'm very accessible," he says. "As many students who are telling you that they can't reach me, there's probably four times that number of students who will tell you that I'm always accessible to them."
Dykes says he welcomes an investigation by the accreditation board. "We have nothing to hide," he says.
Still, Hall is convinced that something isn't right, and she won't stop until the problem is resolved for good. "This is not about the money anymore. Its about the moral of the whole situation, and just making sure that this is truly over for every student there now and for any student that's coming there for the future."
Dykes says they are looking to hire a new financial aid director right now. He says the students will get their money, but he was unable to say when that would happen.