Students from Angelina College are reporting they have not received the refund for their Pell Grant, funds that many students rely on to live during college.

Alexis Parnell said she was told that she would receive her Pell Grant refund at the end of September. She hadn’t heard anything by the end of September, so she asked and was told Oct. 1.

By Oct. 2, she hadn’t heard anything, so she asked and was told Oct. 3. By Oct. 3, she still had not received anything and has visited the financial aid department multiple times, finally hearing that the money may not come in until December.

“As college kids, we depend on this money coming in,” she said. “Our hours get cut from full-time to part-time. We fall behind in bills during the semester, and this money is what catches us up. We can only be so far behind before we move out of our apartments or lose our vehicle or whatever.”

Parnell’s vehicle is in the shop right now, and she was depending on her refund to help fix it to transport her from her apartment in Nacogdoches, to the college and to work.

Students also are expressing concern on forums like the AC app, which has a forum for students and faculty to communicate.

“My check was to be mailed out last Thursday, and I’m still waiting for it to arrive,” one student said.

“It would’ve been great if they would make a formal statement, something by now,” another student wrote. “We as students are held at a certain standard with faculty, and it is our right to feel the same way about a college we invest our money in — Pell or not.”

AC President Michael Simon said the college is disappointed that they are in this situation, along with several other educational institutions. They use software from Jenzabar, a company that monitors and distributes funds, as well as other key elements of the college’s daily functions.

The college recently switched from the “Poise” version of the software to the “EX” version, which Simon said was like switching from Microsoft XP to Microsoft 2000, the next generation of software.

The college has disbursed about $1 million in funds to about 800 students, but it still needs to distribute about $300,000 to about 400 students.

“We are working with this software company, and they have elevated this to their national office,” Simon said. “As soon as they have a fix, we’ll run that fix and disburse the remaining funds.

“I understand their frustration. We feel the same way. It’s not in our control. We’re doing everything we can to get that done as quickly as possible.”

The college has responded to phone messages and emails and has posted updates on the AC app, Simon said.

“Part of the issue is, we just don’t have a lot of information,” he said. “The company is working on it. We regret this has happened, but we don’t know exactly when it will be fixed.

“They’re telling us they think they will have a fix relatively soon, and I’ve directed our team that as soon as they send us that fix, we’re going to shut down everything else that we do and run that fix so that we can get that money as quickly as possible to the students.”

Jenzabar did not respond to multiple requests for comment on what is being done to fix the software issue and when the students can expect the problem to be resolved.

The Pell Grant is a subsidy of the U.S. federal government that provides for students who need financial aid. The grant covers tuition, books, food, rent and other educational expenses for students.

Students are awarded up to $6,195 for 2019. Any money that is not directly charged to the college is then refunded to the student to be used at his or her discretion for educational expenses.

An institution can disburse a refund via direct deposit, check or cash dispensed to the student for which the school gets a signed receipt, according to the Federal Student Aid office website.

Alternatively, the student can request the money be credited to his or her account with the college for any outstanding educational expenses.

The earliest a school can disburse a Pell Grant refund is 10 days before the first day of classes in the payment period. The Federal Student Aid office says that a school can use its discretion in disbursing funds within a payment period to best meet a student’s needs.

“For instance, some schools pay students on the first day of class in a payment period, while others wait until the end of the add/drop period,” the website reads. “Other schools pay students in monthly installments to help meet living expenses throughout the payment period.”

However, every institution must pay out the full amount due to the student by the end of the payment period.

Grace Juarez’s email address is grace.juarez@lufkindailynews.com.