YLS ’08 grads feel pain of clerical error

Benjamin Hillman LAW ’08 got an unexpected surprise for graduation: an additional month of interest and an earlier-than-expected call asking him to pay back his student loans.

For Hillman and several other members of the Yale Law School class of 2008, a clerical error in the Yale administration has cost them earlier repayment, higher balances and bureaucratic headaches. Officials in both the Law School and Yale’s Student Financial and Administrative Services have been working for months to clear up the discrepancy.

So far, it remains unresolved. It was supposed to be done by the end of Tuesday, Law School spokeswoman Jan Conroy said. SFAS Director Jill Carlton said it should be fixed in the coming days.

“We’ll be on the phone first thing in the morning,” Conroy said.

About 100 graduates, or half the class, have student loans, she said. But because most loans feature a six-month grace period, the problem should be fixed long before then. Only a handful of students reported problems with their loans over the summer, she said.

But no students, including those who already experienced problems, will face additional charges once the issue is corrected, Conroy said.

For the law students, the magic date was June 4 — graduation. But for the Department of Education’s National Student Loan Clearinghouse, the all-important date is the end of term: May 23.

That’s when student loans went into repayment and the grace period on interest ended. Lenders hear of the date from the Clearinghouse, which in turn finds out from each university administration.

The Law School registrar made a simple mistake that turned out to have complicated ramifications. The registrar provided a wrong end-of-term date (May 9) to Student Financial and Administration Services, which in turn relayed it to the Clearinghouse. So the lenders came knocking about a month earlier than the students expected.

When students alerted the Yale Law School registrar and financial-aid office to the problem, those offices wrote SFAS later that month asking administrators there to correct the error.

Doing so involves complicated computer programming to get all the systems aligned, Carlton said. So SFAS has not yet solved the discrepancy.

Until they do, the individual students are powerless to fix the record on their own. The Clearinghouse sends weekly electronic updates that continually reset the loans’ balances based on the mistaken graduation date, Hillman said. He has spent at least half an hour on the phone with his lender every few weeks fruitlessly trying to correct it.

“When the balance keeps swinging around, it’s hard to keep track,” he said.

Conroy said the registrar’s efforts to work with students or lenders individually were automatically overridden.

“It’s just been frustrating for everyone,” she said.

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