The University Center at UNO. (Photo by the University of New Orleans)

Roughly 2,800 University of New Orleans students did not receive their anticipated federal student loan and grant refunds earlier this week due to an “extra character” in the University’s address within a federal government database, according to a UNO spokesman, who now said the error has been resolved and money will begin flowing in the coming days.

The refunds are issued with leftover funds after students have paid for credit hours and can run in the thousands of dollars. Students often use the money for books, food, rent and other basic living expenses while attending school. 

“This is a careless mistake. This shouldn’t happen in such a big university. This is not OK,” one student who was waiting on a refund told The Lens.

The student, who asked not to be named — saying she has gone “toe-to-toe” with the university in the past over other issues — told The Lens that her classmates have experienced the same problem — though some for much higher amounts of money than the roughly $1,500 she was expecting.

“Honestly my situation is like a little grain of rice compared to others. I do have a job that does bring me income — but this is just shocking,” she said.

Students were notified of the problem on Monday via email. UNO spokesman Adam Norris said the problem did not rest with the university, 

Norris said the university must have its registration with a federal awards management system — run by U.S. General Services Administration — renewed to access federal student financial aid and other federal assistance. That has been slowed down because of a spelling error in the system, he said. 

UNO’s “registration renewal has been held up because the University’s listed address has an extra character in it (2000 LAKE SHORE DR needs to be corrected to 2000 LAKESHORE DR),” he explained in an email earlier this week.

On Thursday afternoon, Norris said the issue had been resolved.

“The issue involving the federal database that had previously delayed grants and loans has been remedied,” he wrote. “The University has begun authorizing distribution of state and federal aid. Students should start seeing those distributions in their accounts over the next several days.”

“To be clear, UNO did not do anything different than it does every year in terms of renewing its SAM registration,” he wrote. “The issue that needs to be rectified is within the federal government’s system.”

The U.S. GSA did not respond to a request for comment.

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...