CINCINNATI (AP) -- A southwestern Ohio community college that wrote off millions of dollars in student debt is adopting a more aggressive approach to collect money owed, including turning collections over to the Ohio attorney general's office if necessary.
Sinclair Community College in Dayton has written off about $6 million since 2009 as students dropped out or left tuition and bookstore charges unpaid, and will write off about $1.5 million for fiscal 2013, school spokesman Adam Murka said Monday.
The college passed the new policy to aggressively pursue student tuition debt and some bookstore charges after finding some Ohio community colleges more actively pursue those collections. Sinclair officials determined about $900,000 from 1,400 students might have been recovered through more aggressive collections.
College Trustee Robert Connelly said recently that the rising uncollected student debt had "become too significant to not" change the policy, the Dayton Daily News reported.
Sinclair is required by law to refund to the federal government the financial aid that students forfeit by dropping out and seek repayment from students, Murka said. While the college has worked to recover financial aid that students received and used for living expenses and other bookstore charges, it had not had as aggressive a policy for trying to collect tuition and other bookstore charges.
Other colleges, including Wright State University and Clark State Community College, attempt to collect all money owed from students directly and then turn to the Ohio attorney general's office Collection Division if that isn't successful, the Dayton Daily News reported.
Sinclair's new policy will be the same as its policy for collecting financial aid debt, with the school reaching out to students and trying to put them through a payment plan first. If students can't be reached to at least work out a plan, the debt will be turned over to the Ohio attorney general's office for collection.
The amount the school of about 23,000 students has written off has increased in the past few years as enrollment and financial aid to students increased, Murka said. About 15,000 students received federal financial aid totaling $80 million to $90 million over the past year.
The average total cost for a full-time student at Sinclair for tuition, fees, books, transportation and other living expenses is about $10,000 annually, he said.
With Ohio linking more of its financial support to whether students complete classes and receive degrees and credentials, the new policy also is aimed at discouraging students from dropping out. Officials hope students will be less inclined to drop out because they know they will be expected to repay all their debt.
"We want to be the best stewards of taxpayer dollars we can be," Murka said.
But he added that the school also wants to help students juggle their "academic responsibilities with those of jobs and family."
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