Bob Jones University - Billing Error

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UPDATE - 04-09-10

I received a response from John D. Matthews, VP for Finance/CFO at Bob Jones University to this webpage.  I am grateful to him for explaining what occurred with the billing.

Here is my response to his email, including his response to mine:


-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Jackson
Sent: Friday, April 09, 2010 23:50
To: 'John Matthews'
Subject: RE: Billing Explanation

Dear Mr. Matthews,

Thank you for your kind explanation and sympathy.

Getting two of that sort of bill left me angry and disappointed with the school.  I know that I wasn't a good student, or at the very least, I was way too immature for college at that time in my life.  My dad had the right idea back then.  Work for a year and then look at going to college.  I wish I would have listened to him.    I would have been a lot less likely to go "pseudo-hyper-fundamentalist" after the little bit of good training that I received at BJU.    And I might have actually finished school.

I did meet my wife there.  So, some good came of my stay at the school.

After hearing your explanation of the billing error, I will still plan on repaying it as soon as I am able.

Thank you for taking the time to explain to me what happened.  I hope that you are able to straighten everything out.

Sincerely yours,

Mike Jackson.

-----Original Message-----
From: John Matthews
Sent: Friday, April 09, 2010 15:42
To: [Mike Jackson]
Cc: Ted Cheadle
Subject: Billing Explanation

Dear Mike:

Your message to Dr. Bob Jones III regarding your e-mail conversations with our Credit and Collections manager, Ted Cheadle, has been sent to me for response, as Dr. Bob is out of town.  You have been through much with the death of your wife and three children. You have my sincere sympathy for what you have been through.  I know God's grace is the only way you have been able to get through this.  I do want to apologize for what appears to you to have been the efforts of a collection agency.

Let me share what in fact did happen.  BJU recently leased software on a third-party billing platform (ECSI) to conveniently bill those with BJU loans and for them to conveniently pay online and have full access to their BJU loan records.  Our intentions were never to bill the long-outstanding loans , but we do keep them as part of our loan data for historical records, as in many cases years down the road people call to pay off old debt, and we have a way to let them know what those amounts are.  ECSI was never instructed by us to send you a bill, but through a glitch in their system, many with long-outstanding loans were mistakenly sent bills, and to add further confusion, those bills had incorrect "days past due" information, though the loan amounts were still correct.

Ted Cheadle has correctly answered your question that this still is a legitimate debt, as our files showed no record of this debt being forgiven.  The money in the loan fund is a revolving account, and when it is repaid, it enables us to loan to other students coming behind.  That is the way our loan fund has always worked, and that is why we never write off or forgive loans.

We have no intention of contacting you again concerning this debt.  We will continue to keep this as a historical record should there ever be an opportunity in the future for you to repay and let that money go to work for new students as it was a help to you and your wife.  Our team is working with ECSI to avoid sending future bills to you and others like you with long-outstanding loans.

Mike, thanks for letting me share these additional facts with you.

Sincerely,

John D. Matthews
VP for Finance/CFO
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614
tel. 864-242-5100, Ext. 3000

cf

cc: Bob Jones III

------- End of Email -------

My original commentary follows...

My wife and I attended Bob Jones University back in the 70's.  I did not graduate, but Karen, my wife, graduated in 1977.  We combined our debt to BJU and (in 1977) owed a total of $1417.76.

After we left the school, we got a call concerning our debt (in 1984, I think).  The guy who called was the epitome of the "bad debt collector".  We were so appalled by his behaviour that we called the school and spoke to someone about it.  We were told that it would be taken care of and to not worry about it.

I'm afraid that we took that as the end of it, and that they might forgive the debt.  We heard nothing else until about a month ago.  That's a 26 year gap in communications with the school concerning the debt.

Last month I got a bill for the $1417.76.  The bill said that it was 135 days overdue and that it was due to be paid in two weeks time.  135 days overdue?  Try over 12,000 days overdue.  I was a bit surprised that I'd received a bill for the debt after so much time had transpired, so I contacted the school via email to ask about it.

Here is an email that I sent to my family concerning this issue.  It contains all of the responses I received from "Ted" at BJU, as well as my own responses.  Please keep in mind that the email shows the correspondence in reverse order.  (Also, note that "Ted" is not familar with common abbreviations, "dec. 1992" = "deceased 1992".)


----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Jackson"
To: "Ted Cheadle"
Sent: Thursday, January 21, 2010 5:32:27 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: RE: Website Comment

[To the other recipients of this email: I received a collection notice from my old college, Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC today. It's for a 33 year old debt from Karen's and my college days, for $1417.76. I'd thought that this had been forgiven, but that seems to be incorrect and BJU is apparently desperate and now wants the entire amount by 02-01-10 (the bill is postmarked 01-15-10.) As soon as I can format a webpage, I'll post this on the 'Net to see what kind of response it gets.]

Dear Ted,

I was afraid that that was going to be your answer. I know that I should have gotten that phone call's content on paper, and asked for written confirmation from the person that I spoke to.

For the record, my wife died from her disorder in 1992. After ten years and something like $2,000,000.00 in medical costs, which thankfully were mostly taken care of by her disability payments. She had the MELAS Syndrome, symptoms similar to dementia, Alzheimer's and Muscular Dystrophy together (http://www.cfnson.com/melas/).

I am self-employed and last year I made [removed for confidentiality]. The bill that you sent me is due on 02-01-10 and totals $1417.76. I'm currently saving what I can in order to pay my 2010 taxes. If you or one of your staff can figure out how to bleed $1417.76 from me in two weeks, you are doing well.

By the way, the bill is in error. It states that "IMMEDIATE ACTION IS NECESSARY, YOUR ACCOUNT IS 135 DAYS PAST DUE." The bill is not 135 days past due, it is 12,045 days past due, give or take a few days. That "135 days" is a lie, falsehood, deliberate (?) error. It could have stated "OVER 135 days past due", but it didn't.

I will check with local tax authorities, or possibly a lawyer friend, to see if there is a statute of limitations on collecting a debt that's 33 years old, as well as on the legality of the actual bill as printed.

Yes, I'm a Christian and you supposedly have a letter from me written on December 7, 1983 detailing our financial situation and our desire and efforts to pay our debts and be faithful in our service to the Lord. At the time, I'm sure that we felt bad that we still owed BJU a debt and were unable to pay. But it's 33 years later, and I 'm still recovering from my wife's illness and it's effect on me personally as well as on my finances.

I've given everything that matters to me to God, three children dead, my wife dead, and my remaining son recently diagnosed with the same disorder that tragically ended his mother's life.

In my opinion, if BJU is in a situation where they need to try to collect debts from 33 years ago, then they are in dire straights and need to reevaluate their mission and purpose.

I will be publishing this topic on the 'Net to see what others think of this (BCC, webpage, etc..)

I am weary of being bled dry by my fellow Christians. I have given almost all, except for my own physical life, to God. You are not God, and you can't have it. The guilt trip isn't going to work, and I've been through enough to know that God is not going to answer any prayers that you might pray in retaliation. That tends to backfire on the person doing the praying.

If collecting a 33 year old debt is that important to Dr. Bob III (or his son, whoever is in charge), then I suppose that I can't stop you from making my life (and what's left of my credit report) a bit more miserable.

In the mean time, I need to cool off and put this into God's hands. Maybe he has the resources to pay your bill, I sure don't.

- Mike Jackson

-----Original Message-----
From: Ted Cheadle
Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 17:48
To: Mike Jackson
Subject: RE: Website Comment

Dear Mike:
Thank you for your note. We are trying to clear up accounts that have been outstanding for some time and with whom we have not had any contact. I read all of the correspondence in your file and there is nothing indicating that your debt was forgiven and I must say it would be very unusual if that were the case. If it was meant to be forgiven, the balance should have been removed and something placed in your file regarding the justification for this action. Unfortunately, I can only assume that there was a misunderstanding about what was said, and what was really meant was that they would take care of the manner in which the collection agency representative was speaking to you and attempting to collect the debt. The last correspondence we have is a letter from you written on December 7, 1983, detailing your financial situation and your desire and efforts to pay your debts and be faithful in your service to the Lord. I do trust that you wife's health and your financial situation have improved and that you are now able to fulfill your financial obligation to BJU. Please update me regarding your situation and your plans concerning this debt. Thank you.

Ted Cheadle
(864) 242-5100, ext. 3033

>>> "Mike Jackson" 1/20/2010 10:19 AM >>>

Thank you.
Looking at the notice, I'm assuming that the account number is 222703. The name on the account is Michael J. Jackson (though I think it was a combined amount from both my own and my wife's stay at BJU.)

When this came up over 25 years ago, we were contacted by phone by a gentleman who behaved like the classic "collection agency goon". We called BJU and explained about the contact with this individual, our then current financial and health situation (wife ill, dec. 1992), and we were told not to worry about the bill, that it would be taken care of.

This was the first time in all of those years that I received anything in relation to this bill. I would be interested in knowing why it has suddenly come back up, due in less than 2 weeks, after 33 years. The bill states that the account is 135 days past due. At this point in time, it would be more like 12,045 days!

Sincerely yours,

Mike Jackson

-----Original Message-----
From: Ted Cheadle
Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 09:51
To: [Mike Jackson]
Subject: Re: Website Comment

Dear Sir:

Thank you for your note. Would you please give me the name and account number on the bill so that I can research this for you. Thank you.

Ted Cheadle
(864) 242-5100, ext. 3033

>>> [Mike Jackson] 1/20/2010 9:14 AM >>>
url:http://www.bju.edu/become-a-student/financial/aid/

comments:I just received a note from a collection agency for a 1976 loan that was forgiven by BJU over 25 years ago. I am not sure why ECSI is pursuing this now, 33 years later, but I am confused as I was under the impression that it was no longer due. Could someone contact me and help me figure this out? Thank you.

UserInfo:Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.9.1.7) Gecko/20091221 Firefox/3.5.7

confirmation:/contact/confirm.php

------- End of Email -------

I received another bill a month later.  One that states that "IMMEDIATE ACTION IS NECESSARY, YOUR ACCOUNT IS 165 DAYS PAST DUE".  No, it's not.  It's possibly like 12,045+ days past due, but not 165 days.

I'm expecting another bill any day now.

I can only surmise that the "135 and 165 days past due" are an attempt to affect my credit.  After all, if the bill is only 135 or 165 days past due, it appears to be a legitimate debt that was recently incurred.  By the way, "Ted", my wife's illness already "put the kabosh" on our credit.  Add in a few stupid personal mistakes, and I won't be buying anything on credit for the next century.

Here are copies of the bills.  Please note that the amount is due in its entirety, two weeks after I received the bill (postmarked 01-15-10):






The sad part of this is that if BJU had not sent a bill, but had contacted me with a letter stating just how difficult their financial situation was, and that they really needed me to consider paying back the $1417.76 even if I had to break it up into smaller payments, I would have reacted in an entirely different manner.

But by using what appear to be underhanded tactics like they have, they have probably guaranteed that I will never pay the $1417.76.  Ever.

Maybe the young bloods have taken over the administration of the university and are not opposed to using the tools of the world to make a buck?

I wonder how many other former students that they have tried this approach on?

In any case, I've contacted the Georgia State Attorney General's office concerning this matter.  I have not heard back from them, yet.

- Mike Jackson
Augusta, GA

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