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Students stage sit-in at Thomas Jefferson U. after email warnings about unpaid tuition

Students at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University organized a sit-in because their feelings got hurt: They didn’t like the emails sent out warning students about past-due tuition.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, approximately 2,228 students, roughly 25-percent of Jefferson’s total enrollment, received messages threatening de-enrollment.

“A lot of freshmen were crying and calling their parents and saying, ‘I’m going to get kicked out if you don’t pay this charge,’” student Ashlee Miller said. “Everybody was really scared.”

Almost a week later, Provost Mark Tykocinski apologized for the emails, noting he regretted “the distress” they caused. Part of the problem, the Inquirer notes, may be the merger of Jefferson — which is largely a graduate school — with mostly undergraduate Philadelphia University two years ago. The former had sent such notices in the past, but were a shock to those who attended the latter.

From the story:

Jordan Purcell, 21, a senior from Carlisle, said he watched panic spread among classmates. Even after Jefferson said in the follow-up email that it would not de-enroll students that week, students were unsure when or if the university would take that action. He helped to organize the Sept. 16 sit-in.

“You can’t treat students that way,” Purcell said. …

Infuriating students more, Purcell said, was that there appeared to be mistakes.

He said he got a “phantom charge” of $1,200 that he has since had removed. Bell said she owed money but didn’t get the email. Keonei Mahoney, 20, a junior from Clarks Summit, said she got the email 30 minutes after receiving one that said her account was up to date.

Jefferson acknowledged that some students’ accounts may have contained errors and is resolving them …

Gary Lonon, 20, a junior from Philadelphia, said receiving the email was particularly hurtful because his mother has been a medical lab technician at Jefferson since 2001.

“Can we get some kind of help?” Lonon’s mother, Shakirah Jordan, wondered in an interview. “Some kind of leeway?”

Student Daniel Ross invoked “dehumanization” when a Jefferson representative called security on him. He says he wasn’t permitted to sign up for an additional class “so he could graduate on time” due to being $29,000 in arrears. He claims his grandmother had been sick and that his student aid hadn’t come in yet, and when the accounts office didn’t respond to his “urging” that he be allowed to enroll, he refused to leave the premises.

“There’s no reason that safety and security was called on me when I was just trying to figure out how I could graduate on time,” Ross said.

Jefferson says it will now utilize Philadelphia University’s policy where unpaid bills won’t result in de-enrollment from current classes, but future enrollment won’t be permitted.

Read the article.

MORE: Arizona: Students no longer have to be ‘lawfully present’ to get reduced tuition

MORE: Research supports theory that student financial aid leads to increased tuition

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