JUTN student launches petition aimed at Financial Aid

KNOXVILLE — One Johnson University student is voicing frustration with the Financial Aid department here. JUTN student Paula Denny took her frustrations to the next step and has launched an online petition.

So far, the petition has gained 122 supporters. The petition claims students have:

  • Been charged hidden fees at the end of semesters;
  • had classes dropped due to mistakes made by Financial Aid; and
  •  had to discontinue their education due to fees that are made known after registering for classes.

In Denny’s case, she claims she was overcharged, and as a result, had to postpone graduation.

“The issues are so much bigger than myself,” Denny said. “In my own personal case, its been being overcharged and then getting a check several weeks later after I’ve already taken out a loan.

“Having classes dropped due to an expense that I don’t actually owe and now having to graduate a year late because of mismanagement of paperwork—you know it’s just frustrating,” she said.

Denny said her personal frustrations are not the only reason behind the petition, and that her intentions do not stem from revenge, but rather are geared toward what she considers the improvement of the university.

“This is not out of hatred toward my school, this is not out of anger,” Denny said. “I have tried other approaches, and this is the next step.

Denny said other students have voiced similar frustrations to her.

Dave Legg, dean of students, said that students are encouraged to file a Student Grievance Form if they feel a situation is not handled appropriately.

Denny said she has not filed a Student Grievance Form.

According to the student grievance policy, the vice provost for academic services reads all formal complaints and can appoint a grievance committee to investigate the complaint and recommend a solution. If necessary, the complaint will be forwarded to the appropriate department for further investigation and resolution.

“If a student thinks that a charge is wrong, and they discuss it with student accounts, and they’re not satisfied, the best way to address that is to file a student grievance,” Legg said.

He encouraged students to work within the system, communicating with administrators, faculty and staff, rather than creating a petition

“If something is not working, this is how you tell the university that something is not working,” he said. “If a student has really run into a stone wall, then they need to bring it to the attention of the university.”

While Denny said she is hoping to spark change, she said that she initially started the petition to get a formal statement from the university.

“At this point, I am not pushing the petition because I’m giving Johnson an opportunity to make a statement in regards to it, ” Denny said. “I’m giving them the chance to say something before I take it further—I feel like that’s only fair.”

Legg said communication is key to solving issues.

“When students feel like they have to go home and can’t continue because something gets added to their account, typically communication is a really good thing, and that’s true whether it’s from the university to the students or from the students back to the university offices,” Legg said. “I think working together, we can do a whole lot more than we can working separately.”

Denny said that she has three primary goals in keeping her petition active:

  • For students who are frustrated about financial aid situations to be heard;
  • to raise awareness amongst prospective students; and
  • to give Johnson the opportunity to improve.

Legg said the university is always trying to make improvements and said it welcomes constructive criticism.

“I like constructive and helpful stuff that can help me do my job better,” he said. “I think everybody at the university does because we want to serve the students well.”

While Denny said that she believes better training within the Financial-Aid department would be a step in what she considers the right direction, she does acknowledge that students need to be aware of, and keep up with, their own financial aid status.

At the time of publication, the petition was still active, and Denny said she is waiting for a statement from the university.

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