Sunday, Sep 21, 2014
Local News

Financial aid blunder puts Azure students in a lurch


After losing its financial aid in its Sebring location, Azure College offered 45 LPN and RN nursing students some options, but some are upset with the situation.

Woei-Long La, whose wife, Christina, was attending Azure, said now that the students are in the program, the costs have changed and they can’t afford it anymore.

About 10 students gathered outside Azure around mid-day Thursday to discuss their options.

Christina La said: “This was supposed to be covered by financial aid. Now they want $833 a month and I can’t afford that.” She can’t pay the lowest option of $500 a month.

Azure College started with a Miami Gardens location in 2004. The Sebring location opened in May 2012. Azure also has a school in Boca Raton.

Azure President/CEO Jhonson Napoleon drove from Miami to Sebring Friday morning to explain to Highlands Today what happened with the federal funding.

Azure received financial aid approval in October 2013 and then started providing financial aid to the LPN and RN students in February and March of 2014, he said.

But, he had received incorrect information from a financial advisor about the financial aid eligibility at the Sebring and Boca Raton locations, Napoleon said.

“We received an initial visit from the Department of Education in the last week of July and on Aug. 14; they advised us those two campuses are not eligible,” for the financial aid, he said.

The 45 students who were affected were given three options, Napoleon said. They can be provided a transcript of their studies at Azure and can continue their studies at another institution at their own cost, students can wait to continue their studies at Azure until financial aid is available or they can pay to continue their studies now at Azure.

He believes the financial aid will be available sometime after March 2015.

Napoleon said Highlands Today likely received phone calls about the third option for students to pay to continue at Azure.

“They can come back and continue their program here, the only difference this time is there will be no Pell Grant; no student loans from the federal government and they will have to pay us cash money,” he said. Students were offered five payment options.

Azure started in Sebring in 2012, but financial aid started only in March, Napoleon noted. “Every one of those students who graduated paid us cash except this particular group of students who started in March.

“We understand that someone who is not working or who is working for minimum wage, to pull out $500 or $800 to pay every month, it’s a burden.” So students were given options. “I think one of the options is $2,000 every three months.”

Napoleon said there has been no loss of taxpayer money. Azure is a private business, which has lost a “lot of money based on the bad advice it received,” he said.

Apparently, some Azure students have inquired about continuing their studies at South Florida State College.

SFSC Vice President of Student and Educational Services Leana Revell said when Azure students contact SFSC, the college will work with the individual students to evaluate what credits they have earned and what credits they need.

“But, we will have to work with them one-on-one because each one will have a unique set of circumstances,” she said.

Accommodating extra students may be challenging because the college has to maintain its accreditation requirements, “but, we can do it,” Revell said.

She has heard that a group of students has asked to meet with the college on Wednesday, she said.

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