HFCC amnesty program close to realization

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Henry Ford Community College is close to finalizing the details on an amnesty plan that would give former HFCC students who owe the college money a way to settle their debts and repair their relationship with the school.

The HFCC Board of Trustees held a special meeting June 25 to discuss the details of the amnesty plan. The college has lost an estimated $25 million in the past from uncollected tuition and fees and other college costs, including books and library fines.

Trustees hope to run the program between July 15 and Aug. 14 so students who participate would have time to register for fall classes. The Fall 2013 semester begins on Aug. 22.

The program would be available to former students who have debts beginning with the Winter 2012 semester and back. Students with debts from Spring/Summer 2012 until now would not be eligible because their accounts are still with a collections agency.

HFCC President Stan Jensen said if a student whose account was still being managed by the collection agency decided to pay off their account at the discounted rate, the college would have to give 25 percent of what it collected from that student to the collection agency. The college would be able to keep all of the money brought in by closing older accounts.

Students wishing to pay their bill can do it in person, by mail or online. The accounts would then be cleared and students would be eligible to receive their transcripts, graduate or re-register for classes at the college.

HFCC Vice President of Student Affairs Lisa Jones Copprue said that an amnesty program is something that other businesses and organizations use to try to recover owed money.

“There are a number of local, state and federal programs who have used an amnesty program as a way to get uncollected debt,” Copprue said. “This will also allow some people to get out from under some major debt.”

The plan would also only apply to individuals and not to third party sponsors.

Copprue said the administration will take the information collected from the meeting and keep working on the details of the program. She added that the college would have to make its final decisions soon because it would like to get the information out to former students so they have as much time as possible to act.

Trustee Aimee Schoelles said the program will have two benefits. First, it will allow the college to recoup some of the money that it is owed from students. Second, it may encourage that student to re-enroll at the college, which would give the college more revenue from registration.

“I don’t expect that we’re going to get a 20 or 50 percent return,” Schoelles said, “but at this point, even a 1 percent return is a couple hundred thousand dollars.”

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)