UW-Oshkosh billing error leads to nearly $8K surprise bills for recent graduates

MBA grads say they shouldn't have to pay for university's mistake

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A group of University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh graduates say they shouldn’t have to repay more than $55,000 in total charges they received months after graduation due to a campus billing error.

The university says the former students should have known they were undercharged and it’s obligated to collect.

Stuart Kuzik and seven others graduated from UW-Oshkosh’s executive Master of Business Administration in January. Kuzik told Wisconsin Public Radio that on June 1, he got a letter stating he was undercharged during his final term and he owed the university $7,903.78. He said the other six graduates in his cohort were told the same thing.

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“We’re not students anymore,” Kuzik said. “I paid for this with student loan money. I’m not a student. I can’t get a student loan for this.”

Kuzik’s surprise bill came months after a campus financial aid director told him the university actually owed him a refund of nearly $4,000.

Before graduating in January, he said his online accounts showed he had a negative credit balance of $3,715.78. Kuzik shared emails from a campus financial aid director stating he had a zero balance. The emails offered a guide for applying for the refund.

“It’s not the way a business would act,” Kuzkik said. “And this is the place that we’re going to to learn business.”

The former students sent a letter to UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt in June asking the school to not hold them financially responsible for the university’s billing error. Kuzik said they haven’t gotten a response.

In July, the group then sent a letter to UW System President Jay Rothman, a business program accrediting agency and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona asking for intervention.

“We now urge you to help us right this wrong and ensure no others are treated in this manner,” said the letter. “No business should be allowed to charge a customer an additional $8,000 months after issuing written assurances of payment in full.”

UW-Oshkosh Chief of Staff Alex Hummel said the university regrets its mistake. He said the former students were accidentally charged tuition rates for conventional graduate programs, but “it’s clear, when you go to the executive MBA website for UW Oshkosh, it’s actually a special tuition rate.”

Hummel said all students at the university, whether they are undergraduate or graduate students, are asked to do “a financial sort of declaration” that they understand the tuition rates and what they will be charged.

Once the administration was alerted to the billing discrepancy, Hummel said, it contacted MBA program managers who had conversations with the former students about the problem.

“You know, no matter what the conditions are out there, we’ve got to do our due diligence, and we have an obligation to make sure that we’re collecting the monies for the cost of a program,” Hummel said. “So, that’s really the spirit with which we reached out and regrettably had to inform them of this error.”

UW-Oshkosh has been facing financial challenges for years amid declining enrollment and stagnant state support. On Aug. 3, Chancellor Leavitt announced the campus plans to cut around 200 staff positions and require all employees to take unpaid days off to address an $18 million budget deficit.

Kuzik and the others were told they could arrange six-month repayment plans with the university. Otherwise, the entire $7,903.78 was due on July 10.

Hummel said thus far, one of the seven graduates has paid their tuition bill in full and another has made payments.