Is it a computer hack? Is it human error? Whatever the case may be, over the last month not one but two Michigan universities have erroneously sent out emails awarding scholarships to incoming students. On January 4, Oakland University sent an email regarding scholarships to 5,500 students and Central Michigan University sent out a similar email on January 26. What gives?
In the case of Oakland University, spokesperson Brian Bierley tells the Detroit Free Press the scholarship mix-up was caused by human error. The 5,500 emails were delivered to already-admitted students and wrongly informed them they had been awarded the university's highest scholarship, the Platinum Presidential Scholar Award. With the award, these students would have received a $12,000 tuition scholarship each year for four years of undergraduate study. Had the emails been accurate it would have been a dream come true!
Bierley said, "Unfortunately, the students who received the message do not meet the eligibility requirements for this award, but have qualified for varying levels of OU scholarship awards." He also added that a follow-up email informing the students of the error was sent to them within two hours of the incident. Imagine how those students must have felt, going from pure joy to heartbreak within the span of several hours!
Similarly, Central Michigan University sent out emails to 58 prospective students informing them they had been awarded the Centralis scholarship which covers full tuition including room and board for four years, admission into an honors program, and a $5,000 study-away award. CMU spokesperson Aaron Mills says the error occurred when employees were testing out new messaging technology. In a statement, Mills said, "CMU sincerely regrets this mistake and understands the disappointment and anger these students and their families must be feeling".
Now that the stories have gained national and global attention from the New York Post, the Washington Examiner, and the UK's Daily Mail, you'd assume the schools would be forced to honor their promise right? Unfortunately, that is not the case. In an effort of goodwill, CMU has decided to go ahead and offer a similar full-tuition scholarship to the 58 affected students. However, the students at Oakland University are not so fortunate. With over 5,500 emails sent in error, it would be quite costly for the school to honor all those scholarships so all administrators can offer is an apology.
Thankfully in West Michigan, we have programs like the Kalamazoo Promise and Grand Valley State University's recently announced expanded tuition-free program to help students seek higher learning. If you were in a situation like these OU or CMU students, what would you do?