Richmond mom battles college over tuition, calls it 'fraud'

Richmond mom battles college over tuition, calls it 'fraud'
Grambling State University letter (Source: Jessie Bell)
Grambling State University letter (Source: Jessie Bell)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Richmond mother says her son was promised free college tuition. Then she says Grambling State University in Louisiana pulled the rug from underneath him.

Jessie Bell says it's all based on a letter she and her son received from the school. Grambling State says they misunderstood.

GSU claims it was a partial scholarship offer and "a good deal for any student attending a four-year university."

Jessie Bell says Grambling State University dangled free tuition and snatched it back when she and her son showed up for move-in day.

Fighting back tears, Jessie Bell calls what happened a damaging financial setback to her family and her son Jaylaan.

"I think it's fraud, and I think they should be held accountable because we stopped looking," said Jessie Bell. "The bigger problem is we stopped looking and we could have had better offers."

The Maggie Walker Governor's school graduate is 16 hours away in Louisiana attending Grambling State University - but not on the scholarship his mom believes he was promised. Jessie Bell says the switch came upon arrival.

"Honor what this says and the way it was interpreted and the way it was explained, because you're messing with people's lives. My son could have gone somewhere else," said Jessie Bell.

She says the offer changed from a nearly $40,000 package - including an academic scholarship of $9,400 every year for four years and out-of-state fee waivers - to just a waiver.

"The recruiter confirmed it, and her boss confirmed it, but now everybody is saying that it's just a waiver. 'We don't even use that letter anymore.' I'm like, 'okay, you used it on me, so honor it.'"

The persistent mom pressed until she got GSU to discount $2,000 a semester but says it's still several thousand short of the commitment stated in the letter they signed.

GSU's Director of Communications says it was a partial scholarship with an out-of-state fee waiver valued at $13,000 to assist with his education. The statement goes on to say, "a balance of $2,000 per semester is a good deal for any student attending a four-year university... We are not able to disclose any additional details..."

Jessie Bell is still fighting.

"They have to have a certain amount of enrollment in order to get state funding and things of that nature, so I guess they're like, 'hey, whatever by any means necessary.' Even if its unethical."

Thursday at 6, we decode this scholarship letter and you'll hear what a financial aid expert with the Virginia Department of Education says he thinks it means considering all the red flags.

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