By: Jiyeon Yoon
Just like every morning, you get in line to order your daily fix of caffeine to get you through the day. Barista gets started on your ‘usual’ ahead of time to speed up the wait while you casually stand in line. You hand over your card, and then hear those 5 dreadful words:
“Your card has been declined.”
Increased heart rate, tightened chest, and red-hot cheeks; your body trembles with embarrassment.
That’s exactly what happened to at least one Seattle Central Community College student this month, as thirty students were charged their tuition fee not once, but twice.
Danny Park, who was charged his tuition twice (over $3,000) said, “My account balance is negative. I can’t pay for my rent or phone, and I have no money for groceries.” This hiccup in SCCC’s computer system, to put it lightly, ensued quite the domino effect on Park’s finances, (i.e. late rent fee of $150, late phone fee and negative account balance penalty fee).
Park is an international student, and SCCC took all the money that he had in the United States. “I am in panic”, Park said.
SCCC cashier’s office attributed it to a “bank error”, and that it would take 3-4 business days before Park could be reimbursed. 3-4 days later, however, the $3,000 was still missing from Park’s account. He was told “just to wait.”
Jim Anderson, Cashier Manager at SCCC, flatly denies the school is to blame for the overcharges.
“The school did not overcharge,” he says. Anderson says “a transaction problem” with Bank of America caused the problem. The college transmitted the charges to the bank, says Anderson, and they were told the transfer process failed.
They processed it once again, but the bank didn’t delete the previous transaction, so the students’ accounts were charged twice. There was something wrong with the batch and every transaction processed through the batch on that day failed.
Curiously, however, Danny Park paid his tuition with Chase bank.Inconsistencies in SCCC’s story seem to point the finger at the college, not Bank of America.
Park went to see Lexie Evans, dean of Student Leadership, to try to get some answers. He showed Evans his printed account balance and explained everything. She said she was sorry about what had happened, but it was because of “a bank system error” and asked him to wait—again.
“I was overcharged over $3,000, and all I’ve heard all week is to ‘just wait,’” Park told the dean, losing his patience. “I can’t just keep waiting and waiting. I have lost so many things because of this. I was charged a late rent fee, I can’t pay my phone, can’t afford groceries and can’t focus on my studies. . . the school can’t just tell students to wait,” he said.
In a fit of justifiable frustration, Park considered involving the Seattle Police Department.
“I am here to try to help you,” said Evans, raising her voice. “But if you want to go to the police, please go. I will not stop you.” She tossed his account statement on her desk.
“Really? Are you serious?” Park said.
The dean laughed, saying she had only meant it as “a joke.” She said “Do you go to the police for ‘a mistake’ in your country?”
He told her to take it seriously. She said again, “I understand you, but I am trying to get your money back, if you are trying to blame somebody, if that’s what you want, I can’t help you.”
They argued for over an hour and he left her office with a promise that he would get his money back in 24 hours.
Finally, Park got his money back the next day and he heard other students were getting their money back as well. He concluded, “I had spent so much time on it, and I had lost many things besides money including my time.”
SCCC has yet to reimburse Park for the extra fees accumulated for charging his tuition twice. But hey, at least the banks weren’t at fault for once.