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Monday, March 30, 2015

What’s up with that… debt dependency at Mott Community College? - by Justin Zachary

     Lately there seems to be what can only be termed as a “culture of debt dependency” taking root with the students and staff of Mott Community College. The dynamic has become as follows, MCC claims that due to (what could only be the less than scrutinous manner in which eligibility for student loans was determined and disbursed initially) “too many students cutting and running when funds are dispersed” (MCC phone conversation) Mott will now be holding financial aid in the form of loans for 60 percent of the semester, and an additional 14 days to verify attendance and ensure that students are fulfilling their academic responsibilities with regard to said funds.

     This type of policy is flawed to the core and represents a stark image of everything dysfunctional in the student loan system. The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that the policy is in conflict with the standards set forth by the Dept. of Education. Among other things, Mott, being one of four rather large colleges in the Flint area, seems to be the only school getting victimized by these so called “student scam artists” (MCC phone conversation). All others ensure that funds reach students in time for the student to utilize it for the purpose in which it was intended, costs of living and education related expenses. At the end of the day, this service is provided to help students, not make them hopelessly dependent on money that they have to pay back; money that accrues interest while the staff of MCC quietly takes on the role of victim and stonewalls the students, money that earns the college interest by dwelling within the confines of an account somewhere.

     Immediately this does not jive well. First of all, a scam like that is only good for one go round. It’s not as if students could then just enroll in another institution and scam them, it’s a federal program, so regardless of location, the funds all originate from the same sources, which are tracked federally. Constructively, there are several other less fascist ways of handling a problem like the one MCC is experiencing. For example, hold only the funds of students whom have not yet acquired enough credits, that limit being set by the Dean of Financial Aid, so as not punish and cause undue hardship and stressors to a student body that, geographically speaking, is already struggling enough. With the highest water rates in the nation, these guys need their funds in the worst of ways.

     I spoke with Tony Spina, a Mott student, and asked him to weigh in, he said “Sometimes the combined stress of school and bills I can’t pay without my loan creates a circle of dependency on money that I have to pay back, now I couldn’t stop going if I wanted to, I have to in order to keep being able to off delinquent bills because Mott holds money, that really isn’t theirs, essentially punishing the many for the actions of the few.” I later spoke with “Angie”, my inside source at MCC, and she agreed that she did not understand how this policy benefits anyone but the college, indicating it would be interesting to see the numbers surrounding this fiasco. Interesting indeed, one doesn’t exactly need to be an economist or the like to determine that there is a substantial amount of money to be speculated over in interest alone. Drum up enrollment by handing it out like it’s free, then constrict when all the children heed the call of the piper, did this just happen?

     I attempted to Emily Varney (Director of Student Financial Services) to ask the following questions which I thought the students of MCC deserved answers to, unable to reach her after several attempts; I resigned to leaving a message with the promise of delivery that contained the following questions

1)  Some say the new financial aid policy unjustly punishes proven and credible students for the actions of a few students that slipped by, so in light of that opinion we ask; are you under any explicit directive from our government to hold those funds indiscriminately and could you explain how the new refund policy at MCC benefits the students and the community.

2)  Are you opposed to implementing a new, more dynamic policy that is more accommodating and respectful to students that are indeed good proven students here at MCC.

3)  How much money accrues each year in interest gains to the accounts where those funds are held, and what is the difference in those numbers since the implementation of this new policy.

     Unfortunately I have yet to get a response, but as the saying goes; follow the money…

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