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Oklahoma college students owe millions for nontuition charges

Current and former students at Oklahoma's two largest universities have millions of dollars in unpaid charges on their bursar accounts at the end of each school year.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: November 23, 2012 at 10:29 pm •  Published: November 23, 2012

Current and former students at Oklahoma's two largest universities have charged millions of dollars in athletic tickets, computer products, doctor visits and other nontuition items to bursar accounts over the years.

By the end of last fiscal year, students at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University had at least $8 million in unpaid, nontuition charges made to their bursar accounts, which are maintained by universities to facilitate payments and handle other school-related business.

University officials say the schools aren't extending students lines of credit — a practice that is against Oklahoma law.

Records released by both universities show that housing and food services items are the largest category of unpaid bursar charges, totaling a combined $5.8 million by the end of the last fiscal year.

Students also owe roughly $2.3 million for things like parking tickets, library fees, tickets to athletic events, health care and purchases made at the schools' technology stores.

At OU, which has a larger enrollment, students owe $1.6 million in nontuition charges that don't include food and housing services.

By the end of the last fiscal year, students at OU owed $311,132 to the athletic department, $426,799 for parking tickets and $237,563 for services rendered at the Goddard Health Center, school records show.

OU students also owed $172,644 in library fines and $470,552 to the OU IT Store, which opened its Campus Corner location in August 2010.

In Stillwater, students owe $662,820 for similar charges made to their bursar accounts, not including food and housing services.

At OSU, students owed $121,724 for athletic tickets, $241,871 for parking citations and $182,841 for doctor visits, school records show.

Students owed an additional $107,015 in library fines. The university's technology store was only owed $9,367, considerably less than OU's store.

Catherine Bishop, an OU spokeswoman, said students are allowed to charge certain items to their bursar accounts “to provide students with an outstanding overall educational experience, which includes working with them to meet their financial obligations.”

“We do permit our students to pay throughout the semester as educational services are extended,” Bishop said in a statement.

“However, after the grades are recorded, the University cannot release an academic record if statutorily mandated tuition and fees associated with those grades have not been paid.”

Gary Shutt, an OSU spokesman, made similar comments about nontuition debt in Stillwater.

“Through the bursar account, we offer students a convenient way to pay for their education, living, medical needs and campus experience,” Shutt said. “We are pleased to offer this service to our students and pleased that we have an exemplary collection rate.”

Shutt said OSU has a $500 cap on certain non-tuition charges to student bursar accounts, including athletic tickets.

Changes made

At the OU IT Store, unpaid charges to student bursar accounts led to a change in policy for the sleek retail establishment at Campus Corner.

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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