Students must return refunds

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More than 140 medical students are getting an unwelcome start to their senior years at the Medical College of Georgia - a demand to pay back thousands of dollars.

The president of the 2008 class said Tuesday that many are "extremely upset" and will have a hard time paying back what they considered a legitimate refund on tuition.

MCG Provost Barry Goldstein said the dispute centers on a refund given to the students for last summer.

MCG was switching information systems at the time, he said. A student in that class who was only going part time was mistakenly charged as a full-time student and received a refund when he complained, Dr. Goldstein said. When some full-time students also requested a refund, they inadvertently got one, too, and somehow the decision was extended to others, he said.

The average refund was $2,961, and 147 in the class should not have received it, he said. The refunds left MCG between $400,000 and $500,000 in the hole.

The exact nature of the problem wasn't discovered until an internal audit.

"It kind of was a series of errors and communication issues, unfortunately," he said.

Class President Varun Bhalla said the first indication there was a problem was when some students received a certified letter, if they were home to sign for it, on Saturday. Others, like him, found out through classmates or through an e-mail.

"The class is very upset that something like this went through," he said Tuesday. "And we feel like the explanations that are being given to us aren't satisfactory."

The students spent part of the summer in a student-designed review class for national boards, where faculty members volunteered time, then began their third-year rotations in July, he said.

"We were given the refund; we were never given an explanation as to why that refund was given by the university," he said. Nor were they ever notified or asked for input on the investigation.

Dr. Goldstein said there will be a series of town-hall meetings and an e-mail address for students to ask questions. They will have a year to pay the money, and the university will work with them on payment plans.

"We're extremely sorry that this is going to inconvenience the students and put an additional burden on them," he said.

Mr. Bhalla said the students are still hoping to talk the school out of demanding the money back or at least gain a better understanding of why it happened.

"The overwhelming majority of the students in our class are very upset and feel like they were taken advantage of and kept uninformed and right now don't have the money or the means to pay this debt back," he said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

THE IMPACT:

The Medical College of Georgia found a shortfall of $400,000 to $500,000 after 147 students inadvertently received tuition refunds.

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nonumberplease
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nonumberplease 04/25/07 - 05:17 am
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students should return the

students should return the money, afterall, they will
be suing patients that can not pay the co payments of their insurance company. the medical field has a free
reign on how much they charge patients and never take in consideration of the patient or their abilitu to pay.
go ahead doc, in your mercedes, and do what you have to do to pay your 6000.00 a month house payment!

CSRAider
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CSRAider 04/25/07 - 06:17 am
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payit back crybabies

payit back crybabies

NEone
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NEone 04/25/07 - 06:40 am
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Did they not KNOW they were

Did they not KNOW they were being given more money than they should have gotten? Sounds like they were out for a fast buck.

gailkaitschuck
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gailkaitschuck 04/25/07 - 07:14 am
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Perfectly understandable that

Perfectly understandable that these students (who are NOT physicians but rather students struggling financially as all medical students do) are upset. Nonumberplease will probably find this difficult to understand as their posting reflects their problems with literacy.

bubby4113
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bubby4113 04/25/07 - 07:16 am
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nonumberplease -- you

nonumberplease -- you obviously aren't in the medical system if you think that doctors have a "free reign" on how much they can charge and never take patients into account. It's really said people like you are so uninformed.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 04/25/07 - 07:41 am
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If you had any idea how busy

If you had any idea how busy these kids are during these four years of med school, you would understand that it is to track down every stupid error that MCG's financial people make, and those mistakes are legion for students, employees and patients alike. It is the most inefficiently run institution I have ever attended, worked for or been a patient. It is a complete mess, and these students have every right to be upset.

Philo-Publis
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Philo-Publis 04/25/07 - 08:14 am
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You're all missing the point!

You're all missing the point! The people who we trust with our health and well being, can't perform simple math! That to me is unacceptable. The students should not have to give back money that they thought they were entitled (And probably already spent). I'll be surprised and fairly dissapointed if the college gets any of it back.

Edward1968
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Edward1968 04/25/07 - 08:20 am
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They received the refund in

They received the refund in good faith and should be able to keep it. Let the president of the college pay it back. He doesn't have much overhead since his house on Milledge Rd. is free of charge and is even maintained by MCG.

ImSoConfusedinGA
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ImSoConfusedinGA 04/25/07 - 08:22 am
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Students it is a mistake, how

Students it is a mistake, how would you feel if the shoe was on the other foot? Say it was your bank account and you found the error, would you not want paid back? Give me a break. Anyone wanting to keep the money has no morals and belongs in jail not school. There is no way I would keep anything that I did not deserve rightfully. This is what is wrong with our society, they believe they deserve it all without working for it. SOMETHING FOR NOTHING!

Is this a mini-Augusta
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Is this a mini-Augusta 04/25/07 - 08:34 am
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pay it back

pay it back

HillGuy
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HillGuy 04/25/07 - 09:14 am
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Nonumberplease... the typical

Nonumberplease... the typical undeducated Augusta idiot. No wonder they want to move MCG to a more educated city.

Nothing else to say
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Nothing else to say 04/25/07 - 09:27 am
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If they received a refund

If they received a refund knowing they were fulltime students and not parttime students; they should pay it back. Sure, they are very busy but where do they think money comes from .... MOM & DAD, BIG BROTHER, the TOOTH FAIRY? I know where my money comes from I work for it and account for every bit I receive or pay out.

All About Me
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All About Me 04/25/07 - 09:35 am
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HillGuy there are other

HillGuy there are other facilities in more educated cities why don't you gray hound you @$% there. I also understand that MCG made a mistake. Why not meet in the middle and let the students pay back half of the refund that way every one wins. I am sure those students had an idea that they were incorrectly receiving a refund. The school should also be more accountable for their actions even without an audit.

cdw
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cdw 04/25/07 - 09:48 am
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It surprises me that anyone

It surprises me that anyone would think that they should be able to keep something that is not theirs. Regardless of why the error happened, if it does not belong to you, give it back. I think the students should be glad that the university is willing to allow them to set up a payment plan. I hope that if I ever lose my wallet none of the students who are complaining find it, I would like to have it back (with the money in it).

whatever1
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whatever1 04/25/07 - 09:58 am
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Why did the full time

Why did the full time students request a refund? The way I understand it--a part time was charged incorrectly and requested a refund they were entitled to. Why did the others request the refund--sounds like something was not on the up and up with those students--let's face it people will do anything to try and beat someone out of a dollar.
Let us hope that MCG now has something in place to prevent this in the future.

Augusta Mom
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Augusta Mom 04/25/07 - 10:05 am
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Sorry....there's no free

Sorry....there's no free ride. It's unfortunate that this happened, but the money should be paid back. If you suddenly received a refund check for something and you knew it wasn't correct, you'd be expected to return the money at some point. Perhaps they could work out better repayment plans for the students....especially since MCG was to blame for the error. I had a doctor's bill at MCG several years ago that my insurance company said they'd paid. Of course, Physicians Practive Group said nothing had been paid 3 months following and demanded the money. I received a letter from my insurance company, copy of the statement where bill had been paid, and forwarded everything to them. A month later my account was turned over to a collection agency. I paid the balance in full and continued to call PPG numerous times for a refund of my payment. One year later they finally got their act together and refunded my $75. Two weeks later I received another refund check. I called them to point out the 2nd refund check and they were very nasty to me. I immediately put the check away and waited for them to discover their error....which they did 6 months later. Never did I think to keep that check.

THESOUTHLOST
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THESOUTHLOST 04/25/07 - 10:10 am
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Pay the money back. As one

Pay the money back. As one poster put it, if the mistake was made against them, they would expect it to be repaid.

NEone
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NEone 04/25/07 - 10:26 am
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MCG is the worst school?

MCG is the worst school? Guess you haven't had to deal with ASU!

lol@augusta
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lol@augusta 04/25/07 - 10:29 am
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I am a medical student from

I am a medical student from Augusta (although I attend a medical school out of state) and I believe that the students should pay the money back. It seems to me that some people have a very bad impression of doctors and these particular students. Let me assure you, we are not all the same. I am from a working class family, both of my parents are high school graduates and stressed the importance of education to me and my siblings. I am the first person in my family to have the opportunity to attend medical school. Unfortunately, my family is not rich so I live off of student loans and will be in debt about $200,000 by the time I graduate (this pays for tuitition, fees, and basic needs). I am in no way complaining, because my motivation for pursuing this career is not for the money. As a person who knows what it is like to not have health insurance and to be unable to go to the doctor because of the high cost, I hope I can bring my experience to my practice and help anyone regardless of their ability to pay. Getting back to the issue, yes they should repay the money.

reruns
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reruns 04/25/07 - 10:32 am
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Most of you are all right.

Most of you are all right. Doctor's can make a descretions as to whether or not to write your balance off or send you to collections. IT IS THE DOCTOR"S CHOICE. Not everyone that has health insurance can pay the 10% or the copay. Hell we have to pay for the darn insurance that pays the doctor. They are students and they don't have a lot of money, but the ones that were getting more than they were suppose to recceive or not al all. Those students should be penalized to the fullest extent.

Newsreader
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Newsreader 04/25/07 - 10:41 am
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So I go to the doctor's

So I go to the doctor's office, and show them my insurance card, and pay my copayment. A month later I receive a check from the doctor for overpayment. I do not tell my insurance company, just go out to dinner on the "lucky find". Several months later I get a letter from the doc, informing me that I was given a refund in error, and need to make a payment to balance my account. I laugh, and say no way, I was given that money and had no way of knowing it was an error. I spent it. You will not get it back. Several demands for payment follow. I ignore them all. Finally, a notice of a small claims court case with me as defendant arrives. It seems the Doc really wants his money. How do you think the court will rule? Save yourselves and the courts some time, set up a payment plan and pay the school! PS You could replace doctor with lawyer, insurance agent, house painter, or anyother profession. The outcome is the same, an error to the account and a refund do not mean free money!

Mattie
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Mattie 04/25/07 - 10:43 am
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From the sound of the

From the sound of the article, the students had to REQUEST a refund. They knew they weren't entitled to it and asked for it anyway. That's stealing. Don't ask them to pay it back--prosecute them for theft by deception.

backpac-bill
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backpac-bill 04/25/07 - 10:57 am
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My kids University's

My kids University's collected all unpaid balances before they were cleared to "Graduate".So right are wrong money don't come free.Just pay it back and move on.

HillGuy
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HillGuy 04/25/07 - 10:58 am
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Just checked the US News and

Just checked the US News and World Report Rankings of Graduate Schools. For Med Schools... as no surprise Emory University made the top 25.. the only med school in GA to make the list of top 50 med schools. No where on the list was MCG, although several state supported med schools made the top 50 list, including Alabama, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and several California state med schools. This notion that MCG is one of the best public med schools in the country is complete poppycock. It was no where on the top lists. Heck.. when you are beat out by Alabama.. you know something is wrong.

reruns
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reruns 04/25/07 - 10:58 am
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doctoral students learn greed

doctoral students learn greed early on!!!

dagger223
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dagger223 04/25/07 - 11:48 am
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a few points here as a

a few points here as a medical student at MCG in a different class than the one being discussed. first off, MCG tends not to communicate with the students in a timely or efficient manner on many issues. I have several friends in the class, and if the entire class of 180 is getting a refund, it is likely the school never told them it was because of part time. we're not talking a few students, so it would be easy for the students as a whole to not recognize this was incorrect. There have been financial related problems/miscommunications for the 4 years i have been there surrounding that particular summer for students so to blame this entirely on a computer upgrade is very misleading.
For Hillguy, you should read USNWR carefully, because the overall rankings for medical schools are based on research dollars and foundations (coca-cola/woodruff for emory)-MCG doesn't have that generous of a donor. If you find the sections of patient care/primary care, you will find MCG very close to emory.Bottom line is, instead of focusing on the students (who should pay it back), our community should focus on the school so Mike Adams can't argue UGA has a better administration to run a med school

buck
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buck 04/25/07 - 12:00 pm
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So, beacuse it doesn't have

So, beacuse it doesn't have Coca Cola money, MCG has to concede that it will never be a major research insitution, but it is almost as good as Emory in primary care? Try telling that to UAB.

mable8
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mable8 04/25/07 - 12:21 pm
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The students who made the

The students who made the request [and a request was apparently required] for a refund, KNOWING they were full time students as opposed to part time, should pay the money back. Maybe they will have to take a semester off in order to earn the money for repayment, but that is the reality. They KNEW they were not eligibile for a refund, but made the request and accepted the refund--MCG does well in teaching courses in lying, cheating, and stealing. I have no sympathy for the students or the administrators--both were wrong [administration should have checked out every request and sent denials where appropriate].

CoastalDawg
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CoastalDawg 04/25/07 - 12:26 pm
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I believe that whoever

I believe that whoever created the original refunds should meet with the students who received it and explain in detail how such an error could have occurred and what is being done to assure that it doesn't happen again. More than likely when that one deserving student told others that an error had been made in his favor, others asked for and received what they believed to be money which had been charged in error. One has to wonder though why it took so long to discover the error and why so many students got what has now been determined to be undeserved refunds. Is MCG absolutely certain that they have it right THIS time? IF they can absolutely prove beyond a doubt that the refunds were indeed issued in error then the students must return the money at a pace and in payment amounts which will not interfere with their already established budgets. IF that doesn't happen MCG might use the tactic of not awarding degrees until all fees paid, which is not unheard of in many school systems. This error, if it is that, once again makes the point that the more we depend on computers to do everything for us, the more mistakes and problems we will have. Back to good old hands on.

peppernik
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peppernik 04/25/07 - 12:36 pm
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Hey dummies, if you give it

Hey dummies, if you give it to 147 students, you have to give it to all. It's an error! Pay it back

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