Too little too late, Mr. Higher Education. Do I give the check back?
October 4, 2010 3:41 PM   Subscribe

I dropped (back) out of college during this past summer session. I am not registered to take any more courses, ever. Yesterday I received a Pell Grant check in the mail alongside a statement from the university bursar's office noting the credit amount. This is a total surprise as I had no previous indication I'd be receiving any financial aid. I could use the money (not for school). Should I cash the check or send it back?
posted by anonymous to Education (14 answers total)
Send it back. They will eventually figure out that you weren't enrolled for a year in which you received a Pell grant, and you will likely be in some trouble.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 3:43 PM on October 4, 2010

From an ethical or moral standpoint, you absolutely need to send the check back.

From a legal standpoint, there is every indication they will notice you were not enrolled and come after you for an overpayment on the Pell Grant.

This page (not sure what their sources are, but it seems reasonable:
If your enrollment status changes after you have received the proceeds of your Pell Grant, you will most likely have to pay back what the difference is, and if you don’t you may risk having a Pell overpayment on your record, and this can make you ineligible for any sort of future federal aid.
posted by disillusioned at 3:45 PM on October 4, 2010

Send it back. The rules of the Pell Grant require that "You must be enrolled in a program that will lead to a certificate, diploma, or degree at any institution eligible to participate in the Pell Grant Program, and maintain satisfactory academic progress as defined by the grant program." If they find out (and I believe the schools report to them, so they will likely find out), you will be on the hook at least for the money, and possibly for more.
posted by brainmouse at 3:46 PM on October 4, 2010

They will find out, and they will ask for the money back. University administrators routinely check who remains enrolled and who has dropped out completely or to half-time after the drop deadline (still seven-eight weeks away for the fall semester).
posted by halogen at 4:11 PM on October 4, 2010

Send the money back. All of us could use extra unrestricted money, however that's not what this check is, and your financial matters will be worse if you end up trying to pay this money back after spending it.
posted by questionsandanchors at 4:29 PM on October 4, 2010

Cashing this check will be more trouble than it's worth. Don't do it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:38 PM on October 4, 2010

N'thing send it back. You don't want to pay the interest on trying to pay them back. For one, they will want it in full as soon as they notice it. Two, even if you "pay back in installments" the interest could be astronomical.

And the gummint always gets their cash.

posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:38 PM on October 4, 2010

Oh boy, send it back. Seriously. You don't want to mess around with that.
posted by elpea at 4:39 PM on October 4, 2010

They'll ask for the money back. WITH INTEREST.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:45 PM on October 4, 2010

Yeah, you will get caught if you don't send it back. I believe they can (and will) take it from your tax return if you don't.
posted by mjcon at 6:15 PM on October 4, 2010

I would contact the bursar's office and see if they can tell you how to/help you return the money in the most expedient way possible. Since dealing with this stuff is their job, they probably have some experience with this.
posted by Grafix at 6:21 PM on October 4, 2010

You need to call the financial aid office at your university (the one you attended this summer) and find out what this disbursement was for. Pell Grant regulations changed recently and this year was the first year that summer classes could be paid for with Pell funds. However, you should have already received that disbursement (i.e. it shouldn't be this late) so chances are they think you are registered for Fall classes. So, call the University and find out what's going on.

If this is for anything other that the tuition you paid for this summer, you need to return the check. Make sure you document everything though, in case the University doesn't.
posted by MultiFaceted at 6:28 PM on October 4, 2010

You will get caught if you do this and owe the amount plus interest plus fines.
posted by bardic at 12:19 AM on October 5, 2010

Hey, sock of OP here.

Thank you all for the sage advice. I called my financial aid office (like, 8 billion times) and finally got through this morning. I was assured that the money was granted for the summer classes I bought and took this year, and that my current academic status has no bearing on the state of my bursars account.

In other words, the money is mine to do with as I see fit even though I'm not in college anymore.

The check was disbursed so late because the entire university is suffering a systems consolidation/reconfiguration and financial aid for summer courses 2010 was severely delayed.

So yay! Next one's on me! Whoever I am. =)
posted by saguaro at 11:12 AM on October 11, 2010

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