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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Education Law
Satisfied Customers: 115461
Experience:  Attorney handling education matters.
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I was a chemistry Ph.D. student at Georgetown University on

Customer Question

I was a chemistry Ph.D. student at Georgetown University on a fellowship, but I graduated in April. I was in my 7th year at the institution. In December, I was told by the head of the department if I could not submit your thesis to the graduate school by the end of December 2014, you are no longer in a fundable position and I would not be registered for the Spring semester. However, I was automatically registered for that semester and was continued paid a stipend. At the time, I assumed that he went back on his word and continued to work in the lab and on my dissertation. The reason I assumed this was that at the beginning of the academic year June 2014, I was offered an award letter, which I signed and he saw, stating that I would be funded for the entire year, including the Spring semester. They have now communicated with me that they have discovered a clerical error that resulted in continuous stipend payments to me. In addition, they are stating that I must return the over-paid stipend in full ($12,500) to the chemistry department by the end of June 2015. I hoping that there is something I could do to avoid paying this amount.
NB
They never emailed me or a letter saying they were not funding me for the next semester.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Education Law
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Below are the obligation of the award letter, the signed award letter, and the letter from my department head
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
I am afraid that if you were indeed told, as you admitted above, that you had to finish your thesis by the end of December, I am sorry to say you would be bound to return any money that they overpaid you as a result of their error. The award letter and the obligation booklet you provided do not guarantee the continued payment through the end of the Spring semester, they break down the award and mention an annualized stipend (which can be reduced if you do not make the year).
Legally, when someone is overpaid as a result of an administrative error, the paying party is entitled to recover that money back. So, you are going to have to arrange some type of repayment with the school based on the documents you provided above, or they could indeed sue you for the money back.