FCCJ triple bills about 700 for tuition

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Tuesday, November 23, 1999

Story last updated at 11:04 p.m. on Monday, November 22, 1999

FCCJ triple-bills about 700 for tuition

By Mary MacDonald Times-Union staff writer

About 700 students at Florida Community College at Jacksonville have been triple-charged for tuition because of a series of errors that began with a computer test of a telephone payment system.

But most of them may be unaware of the $430,000 mistake.

College officials have not notified these students because they thought the accounts would be corrected by a credit card servicing company, once the initial mistake was discovered, said Steve Bowers, FCCJ's vice president of administrative affairs.

Instead, the accounts were charged again, he said.

Students should have their accounts restored by tomorrow, a company spokeswoman and Bowers said yesterday.

Any student who has a resulting penalty, such as a bounced check charge, will be reimbursed by FCCJ, President Steven Wallace said.

"The problem originated with the college, so we accept full responsibility," he said.

But the string of events has infuriated some students.

Jeffrey Flaig, a student at South Campus, called FCCJ last week after $580.20 was debited from his business checking account. He had used a check card to pay for his tuition in August.

On Friday, after he was told the amount would be restored, another $580.20 disappeared, Flaig said.

He said he spent the weekend of the Florida-Florida State football game watching every dime. "This has all the makings of a class-action lawsuit," he said. "You have kids who are very, very upset."

The initial mistake, on Nov. 16, was made when the college prepared to test its telephone payment system, a program that allows students to register over the phone and pay by credit card.

The service had been shut down by administrators in August, Bowers said, stemming from problems that were related to its interaction with a new college computer system, Orion.

As college officials prepared to test the payment system, they erroneously transmitted the account information of 716 students, those who had registered and paid their tuition on the last day the system was operable, Bowers said.

The credit card servicing company, Unified Merchant Services, processed the information. On Friday, the accounts that were supposed to be credited for a total of $215,000 were instead charged again, said spokeswoman Elizabeth Sullivan.

In a letter to the college, the Melville, N.Y.-based company acknowledged the error.

But the college initiated the problems when it failed to clear the student information, Wallace said. The college is still trying to determine how that happened.

The college has notified all banks in the Jacksonville area of the situation, Bowers said. Some, he said, citing NationsBank, have agreed to not charge students a bounced-check fee in relation to the error.

But most students are probably unaware of the error because their credit card accounts were billed. Corrections will likely be made before their bill is processed, Bowers said.

Students who called the college had used debit cards, a card that takes money directly from a checking account. In two instances, Bowers said, the college wrote checks for students whose accounts were in danger of having bounced check fees.

In the meantime, administrators have scrapped the idea of using the credit card payment system until computer employees at the college can assure them the system will work, Bowers said.

"This is terribly embarrassing [for the college]," Bowers said.

If students have questions, they should contact the business office of the college campus they attend, Bowers said.

Flaig already has, several times. He estimated he has spent at least six hours trying to get his business account restored to its normal balance.

He is pursuing a degree in computer information systems, and he plans to seek free tuition next semester as recourse for the mistakes.

Another student, Heather Sims, said she discovered her checking account balance had dropped $359 when she tried to take money out of an automated teller machine Thursday night.

By the weekend, her account had dropped another $359. Although, like Flaig, she has not bounced any checks, the series of mistakes is frustrating, she said.

She happens to be taking just a single course, French, and had just transferred some money to her checking account.

As it is, Sims had planned to purchase a plane ticket to visit her sister in Hawaii. She ended up losing the fare because there wasn't enough in the account for the debit card to clear that amount, she said.

"I feel like I don't have any recourse," Sims said. "What am I going to do? Go in there and say, you cost me my trip to see my little sister?"

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), November 23, 1999


Infuriated :::::::::::::::::::::: HAHAHahahahahahahaha :::::::::::: just wait ::::::::::::: a new word for RAGE will have to be coined in the global village.

-- Pop a vein (in@40.days), November 23, 1999.

"This has all the makings of a class-action lawsuit," he said. "You have kids who are very, very upset."

If they're upset now, what will they be like when things really go wrong?

-- gator (got@embythe.ass), November 23, 1999.

was it Peoplesoft? let us know , realy would like to know.


-- MONGO (mongo2@prodigy.net), November 23, 1999.

Repeat after me:

.....just a little glitch,

.... just a bump in the road,


-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), November 23, 1999.

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