Students Claim University Kept Aid Money

     BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) — Thirty-seven Nigerian students who received scholarships from their government to study at Alabama State University say the school pocketed excess funds rather than give it to them to cover the cost of incidentals.
     A federal lawsuit claims the students all received full scholarships from the Federal Republic of Nigeria for tuition, fees, health insurance, room and board, textbooks and miscellaneous personal costs while attending Alabama State University.
     However, during the 2013-2014 academic year, plaintiffs say they were not allowed to spend the money allocated to them and the money was instead credited towards other expenses.
     According to the lawsuit, in the fall semester of the 2014-2015 academic year, defendant ASU told the students it had removed money from their accounts because the Nigerian government was late paying fees for the upcoming school year.
     The lawsuit claims the Nigerian government soon paid the entire costs for the year, but ASU did not return the money it had taken from the students and instead “confiscated and converted to its own separate use said money.”
     Upset by defendant’s actions, plaintiffs contacted the apecial advisor to the president of the Niger Delta, who sent a letter to ASU requesting that “all credit balances for tuition be carried over for each student and be used as an initial deposit for the next semester fees” while all other credits/balances “should be refunded to each student”.
     Defendant ignored this request, the lawsuit says.
     The plaintiffs’ says their attorney then sent a letter asking ASU to disperse all funds to plaintiff students and two months later, defendant responded by saying any refunds and/or credits would go back to the Nigerian government rather than the students because there “is no financial arrangement between the University and the individual Nigerian students.”
     In response, plaintiffs say that although they have no “precise” financial arrangement with ASU, the Nigerian government requires that all monies not used for tuition and fees be dispersed to the students to cover room and board, textbooks and other incidental costs.
     Plaintiffs claim this makes them “at the very least, third party beneficiaries, if not outright beneficiaries, of the above-referenced agreement between ASU and the Nigerian government.”
     The lawsuit seeks an order declaring that defendant must refund back to students all monies paid by the Nigerian government.
     When contacted by Courthouse News, Kenneth Mullinax, director of Public Information and Media Relations at the university, said he had no comment on pending litigation.
     Plaintiffs are represented by Julian McPhillips, Jr. of Montgomery.

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