KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Students pursuing nursing degrees at the MedLife Institute are facing a two-week deadline to come up with $1,500 in unexpected tuition bills if they want to continue in the program instead of being kicked out.
MedLife, which runs nursing schools statewide, began accepting federal financial aid in 2016 based on an application filed by its campus in Naples. At the time, the school had recently terminated one of its degree programs due to lack of attendance. That program ran for less than two years, but the school’s Kissimmee campus director said the financial aid application mistakenly listed it as having fulfilled the U.S. Department of Education’s requirement that programs run at least two years before qualifying to accept federal funding.
Earlier this year, the DOE advised MedLife of the error and terminated the school’s financial aid status. On Thursday, the agency advised MedLife an appeal of the decision was denied.
“I was very happy that I was going to get assistance with paying for school, and I was going to sacrifice like many students and live off of very little money,” a student at the Kissimmee campus said. She asked to be called Stacey due to concerns over being kicked out of the program for speaking publicly about the situation.
Stacey said she had made financial sacrifices to leave behind her previous life and work toward becoming a registered nurse to improve her family’s financial situation.
“It’s a big, big sacrifice to be in the RN program,” she said. “Nursing is a very difficult course, and people know that it’s not easy to make it.”
Stacey and others received an email from school leaders advising them of the situation. It said, "After July 13, 2018, any student who has not made a financial plan will be placed on a financial hold status and unable to participate in classes or practicums. After July 27, 2018, any student remaining on a financial hold will be administratively withdrawn.”
“We recognize that the students did not plan to be paying out of pocket,” Kissimmee campus director Brian Love said Friday. “They were relying on the assistance of financial aid.”
Love said tuition for the average MedLife student runs between $5,000 and $6,000 each term, but the school had decided to discount that amount to a flat $1,500 apiece in recognition of the hardship caused by the sudden loss of financial aid.
“Trying to get an education and pay out of pocket is a burden, but we will do our absolute best to work with each and every student,” he said. “We want to see them succeed. We’re in the business of opening doors, not closing them.”
Love said the school could not afford to offer classes entirely tuition-free for the remainder of the term.
Stacey said she felt trapped in the situation because private nursing schools tend not to recognize credits from other programs when students transfer, and she’d be on the hook for the loans she procured to attend MedLife even if she successfully obtained financial aid to start over somewhere else.
“They need to let the students know what’s going on, if they do not have financial aid anymore, because a lot of people are hoping it’s going to return by next term,” Stacey said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said Friday that the school could re-apply for the ability to accept financial aid. Love said he was unsure whether the school would submit a new application.
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