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National Guard ULM students owe thousands of dollars after TOPS funds misplaced

MONROE, La. - MONROE, La. (10/11/18) - . Students say all they wanted to do was serve their country while avoiding the very debt they're now facing. Senior nursing student Daijah Cobb and junior Ryan Hicks are both TOPS recipients and in the National Guard.

But it turns out they can't get money from both and now their student bills have spiked. 

"My payment plan has been changed to 200 dollars to 1200 dollars", said Daijah Cobb.
Ryan Hicks added, "I had to pay 1600 this semester out of my personal pocket."

This is the letter they received stating students aren't allowed to receive the National Guard waiver and the full TOPS scholarship. The problem is that money has already been spent on books, tuition, and housing. Now these students have to come up with more than $8,000.

"That's a big deal. Why am I getting penalized for something that the university had no idea about", said Cobb.

ULM says after an internal investigation they realized 18 students got too much money. 

"That's something we should have caught some time ago and we didn't", said Dr. Michael Camille, vice president of information services and student success. 

"They should have to deal with the problem since they made the mistake", said Hicks.
Dr. Camille says after looking into various options, legally they have to collect all the money they gave out.

"Because the students received that money, we're obligated as a state institution to collect money on behalf of the state. It goes straight to the state of Louisiana", said Camille.

But students feel they're getting punished for doing what they thought was right.

"Technically I earned both", said Cobb.
Ryan hicks junior

"Most of us joined the National Guard because first of all we wanted to serve our country and then we also wanted our school to help be paid for", said Hicks.

ULM says the over awarding started in 2013 and the bills range from $1,700 dollars to $14,000. Dr. Camille says they've made several changes to ensure this doesn't happen again-- including posting new information on their website, cross training staff so everyone is aware, and working with the National Guard and TOPS Louisiana so all future students are informed from the start.

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