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Dwayne B.
Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Education Law
Satisfied Customers: 32775
Experience:  Began practicing law in 1992
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The school gave me inaccurate information about financial

Customer Question

The school gave me inaccurate information about financial aid returns. Now they demand that I repay $1100 that I don't have. What recourse do I have? I have talked with them twice about it but they failed to provide me the relevant information. What legal statutes can protect me?
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Education Law
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 8 months ago.

Hello and thank you for contacting us. This is Dwayne B. and I’m an expert here and looking forward to assisting you today. If at any point any of my answers aren’t clear please don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Also, I can only answer the questions you specifically ask and based on the facts that you give so please be sure that you ask the questions you want to ask and provide all necessary facts. Please note: This is general information for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein, and no attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an expert on this site. By continuing, you confirm that you understand and agree to these terms.

Based on what you have told me so far there are no "statutes" that are going to protect you but that isn't unusual. Contrary to what most people think , most areas are not covered by statute.

Can you explain, in a sentence or two, what exactly the school did and what type of "inaccurate information" they provided to you?

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
The school said that if I waited until after the financial aid determination date and received a 'W' for that class then I would not owe anything back to financial aid. It turned out that the information that the person who worked at the school was outdated and he had given me outdated info because unbeknownst to him the school changed the policy within a month or two prior. Neither he nor I knew that the policy had been changed. Next thing I knew I had a bill for $1100 for the classes that I dropped after the financial aid determination date. The two times I talked to the school they promised to re-evaluate it. They haven't even though it's been a month. They just promise they will, but don't look at it. They send me an email saying they'll review it but then they don't. They just send me notices saying I owe them the money and the last one contained a threat saying they would have to try other means of collecting the money if I did not pay.
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 8 months ago.

You have some defenses that might work but they are really equitable defenses and not statuory.

These are 1) laches, 2) waiver, and 3) estoppel.

Laches and waiver, under your facts, are close to the same thing. Laches means they watched you do something and didn't object even though it was against the rules and so they can't object now. In your case it is what they told you to do and you following their directions.

Waiver means that due to their actions or inactions they waived the right to complain. Again, they can't tell you to do something and then complain when you follow their directions.

Estoppel means that since they are the ones that told you what to do, they are now "estopped" (prevented) from claiming that you did something wrong.

You can handle these defenses either by suing them for a declaratory judgment saying you don't owe them or you can wait for them to sue you and then assert those defenses. I always preferred being aggressive but it is really your decision and you may have to hire a lawyer to help you because these are complicated issues.

If you hire a lawyer then you can likely sue for your attorney's fees as well.

If your question has been answered then I'd offer my best wishes to you and ask that you please not forget to leave a Positive Rating so I receive credit for my work.

Of course, please feel free to ask any follow up questions in this thread. I want to be sure that all of your questions are answered. In addition, once you issue your Positive Rating the question will lock open and you can come back to it anytime in the future if you think of something else.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Thank you. I appreciate how thorough that answer was. The one thing I see there is that they didn't tell me to drop the classes. They just gave me wrong information about dropping the classes when it was their job to provide accurate information. So I can see the latches and waivers side. I think that somewhere in the law they should have to inform us when they change the policy. Is there anything in the law there? Right now the worst thing is that I can't register for classes until this is resolved and it will make it extremely difficult to get the classes I need. I have been trying to take care of this for months but I think the reason they've been ignoring me is to put me in the situation where I can't register. Also they are not willing to release my transcript to another school until I pay it. So I may have to sue them.
The reason I had to drop the classes was because of unexpected medical issues. This left me with high medical bills and losing my job. That is why I am not able to pay this expense. Since I can't afford the cost I would be hesitant to hire a lawyer to represent me despite how it is affecting me. The other challenge with this case is that by June 30th everything that has happened with financial aid will become permanent. I am hoping that I can scare them into resolving this before then by giving them a credible legal threat. Based on your understanding of what I have described what would be the most credible legal argument?
One final question. I have not earned a lot of credits at this university. I had very high test scores and a high GPA in high school. Would it be illegal or possibly present a legal dilemma if I applied to another school as an incoming freshman since this school refuses to release my transcript until I have paid this fee?
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 8 months ago.

No, there's no law that says specifically they have to notify you if they change their policy. However, under the common law there would be a duty not to give you wrong information.

As to registering for classes you can hire a lawyer and get them to file for an injunction requiring them to let you register. You don't want to try it without a lawyer because it is so complicated.

The steps to an injunction are:

1) An Application for TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) is filed along with supporting evidence such as affidavits. Usually the Application for Injunction is made at the same time. The TRO is a temporary measure and is not absolutely required before you get an injunction.
2) An Ex Parte (without the other side present) Hearing is conducted and the judge either issues the TRO or denies it. If the TRO is issued the judge orders a bond set in a sufficient amount to compensate the other side for any damages accumulated while the TRO is in place if the applicant fails to prove their right to an injunction.
3) A hearing on the TRO is set.
4) The TRO and notice of Hearing is served on the defendant.
5) The defendant should immediately begin following the judge's orders.
6) The TRO hearing is held and each side has an opportunity to present evidence and question witnesses.
7) The judge makes the decision on whether to convert the TRO to a Temporary Injunction or not.
8) If the TRO is converted to a Temporary Injunction then the judge sets a new bond to be in place.
9) Discovery is conducted by both sides.
10) A request for hearing date is made on the matter of converting the Temporary Injunction into a Permanent Injunction.
11) The hearing/trial is held on the Permanent Injunction and the judge issues a ruling.

These are what are known as extraordinary remedies and the procedural rules for these as well as the case law are EXTREMELY specific and difficult. If ANY mistakes are made the judge has no choice but to deny the relief and will not likely reconsider it in the future.

Just as an example, getting injunctive relief, both temporary and permanent, requires that evidence be offered of:
1) An immediate need,
2) Which, if not granted, will result in irreparable harm,
3) With no adequate remedy at law, and
4) (on temporary order) The person requesting the injunction is likely to succeed at a full trial on the merits.

If evidence is not offered to meet these four requirements, in a manner that the judge knows this is what the evidence shows, then the petition will be denied.

There are more requirements than this depending on the exact facts of the case but it is very, very easy to mess up one of these and end up having to pay damages to the other side just because your paperwork wasn't done properly.

The arguments are the laches, waiver and estoppel as well as their misleading you as to the policy.

Even if you don't actually sue them you should get a local lawyer to write them a letter threatening to sue them as well as asking for the injunction, etc.

It would be illegal to get any kind of Financial Aid or benefits based on you being an incoming freshman but I can't think of any other way a school would be hurt. If there were damages it would be fraud though.

If your question has been answered then I'd offer my best wishes to you and ask that you please not forget to leave a Positive Rating so I receive credit for my work.

Of course, please feel free to ask any follow up questions in this thread. I want to be sure that all of your questions are answered. In addition, once you issue your Positive Rating the question will lock open and you can come back to it anytime in the future if you think of something else.