7-8-1999

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Bookstore no longer accepting financial aid

State law prohibits crediting privately owned stores

by Sally Claunch
The Shorthorn staff

Students can no longer use their Mav Express cards to charge books against their financial aid in the bookstore because of state laws.

Until recently, students could use the cards to charge against their financial aid because the university, a state entity, owned the bookstore. But now that the store has been sold to Follett College Stores, a commercial entity, using the cards would be extending credit to a private business, which is against state law.

Rusty Ward, assistant vice president for finance, said state laws prohibit the university extending credit to a corporation.

Student can still use major credit cards for purchases.

He said that in the past students who had financial aid could swipe their Mav Express cards and charge books against their aid, and the bookstore would get the money immediately. Later, the money would be charged against the students' aid.

"The university currently has several hundred thousand dollars of bad debt from books," he said. "They're just going to have to write that off."

Ward said that Follett College Stores are planning to upgrade its computer system in November. He said that after the upgrades, they will work on getting a system online that would work like a bank draft. He said that way, the university will not be extending credit to the store.

Ward said if this is a problem for students, they can seek out emergency loans for books.

"We are willing to extend short term loans to students until their financial aid comes in," he said.

Bookstore Director Bill Coulter said a significant amount of students used the old system, and some of them are complaining.

"In the first week of classes for fall 1998, about 1,000 students charged their books against their financial aid," he said. "We're hoping the university will reinstate this."

Coulter said the bookstore will not extend credit to students unless they are using a major credit card.

Judy Schneider, financial aid assistant vice president, echoed Coulter's concerns.

"A number of students have been distressed," she said, "and our position is that students approach the business office about this issue."