Hudson County Community College issues refunds amid student outrage

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. (PIX11)-- If a college makes a mistake when calculating tuition - should students have to pay the difference?

Nursing students at Hudson County Community College say their tuition balances went from zero to overdue with just weeks left in the semester.

They say a $450 dollar charge appeared sometime in April, without notice or explanation.

“They never notified the students, so whatever changes they did make, they didn’t send an official letter,” said nursing student Harriet Itoka.

HCCC nursing student Fern Murray said not only was the charge added so late, “but was back-billed to make it appear that it had been there since November.”

Students provided PIX11 with an e-mail from a Dean at the college to one student, which states: “…it truly was a billing error on the part of HCCC.”

The Dean told the student that: “we need our income to survive and pay our bills at the school.”

The Dean also asked the student to “share this information with your classmates.”

“We have to scrimp and save and beg and borrow to get the amount of money that they say we owe,” one student told PIX11, “And if this had been done in maybe January when we were soliciting funds and monies from someplace, it would have been one thing. But it’s what? 2 weeks before the end of the semester? Where is this money supposed to come from?”

In addition to being full time nursing students, many students work full or part-time jobs to make ends meet. They say the time to acquire more financial aid is long past.

“Our financial aid is not going to increase even though technically the tuition is higher,” said nursing student, Zitlali Gutierrez.

HCCC nursing students contacted PIX11 after they say the school ignored their questions and complaints.

“We have heard nothing from them,” said nursing student, Cassandra Dass, “We have left voicemails, we’ve written e-mails and nobody will get back to us.”

PIX11 news reached out to Hudson County Community College on Monday to hear their side of the story. Four days later they sent us a letter that they said would be sent out to students.

In the letter, Associate Dean Catherine Sirangelo says the late billing, which were lab fees, was a result of a “systems error and a failure to rollover a revised fee schedule in a timely manner”.

She explains that the “revised billing statements were automatically issued” and apologized.

As a result, the College has decided to forgive the fee and anyone who already paid will be refunded.

Students who talked to PIX11 today, say they’ve already received refunds.

“We’re all happy! We’re like shouting for joy when we found out the news. Our whole class was in an uproar,” said Gutierrez.

“I just want to thank you guys for giving traction to our story and to our cause,” added senior class president, Haitham Abouzie.

The response from Hudson Community College did not elaborate on how they would make up for the refunds in their own budget, who was responsible, or if anyone was fired for the mistake.