University Mistakenly Tells 5,500 Students They Won Huge Scholarships

Carnell Poindexter looked at the subject line of the email – “Congratulations!” — and immediately opened it while participating in a debate class at his high school in West Bloomfield, Michigan.

Mr. Poindexter, an 18-year-old senior with a 3.8 GPA, thought this might be the scholarship he had hoped for from Oakland University.

“You worked hard and it paid off!” read the January 4 email, informing him that he had won a four-year, $48,000 college scholarship. Mr. Poindexter, who wants to be a lawyer, and his parents were thrilled.

But then, more than two hours later, came another email with a subject line that said “CORRECTION.”

Oakland University – where the campus spans two cities, Auburn Hills and Rochester Hills, each about 30 miles from Detroit – said it mistakenly told 5,500 incoming students that they had won the scholarships. In-state students pay about $58,000 in tuition over four years, with room and board costing an additional $11,192 per year, according to the university.

The university told students in the follow-up email, “Because you are not a recipient of the Platinum Presidential Scholar Award, this message was unfortunately sent to you in error.”

And just like that, the excitement of thousands of students, including Mr. Poindexter, evaporated.

“He was extremely disappointed, embarrassed, even frustrated because he was working a lot,” Gwen Poindexter, Mr Poindexter’s mother, said on Sunday.

Brian Bierley, a spokesperson for the university, said in a statement that the error was “due to human error”. He added that the students who received the message did not meet the eligibility requirements for the award.

To qualify for the Platinum Presidential Scholar Award, incoming students must have a GPA of at least 3.9 and a score of 1,450 or higher on the SAT, or 33 on the concurrent ACT, depending on the university. As of this month, 162 students have qualified for the scholarship and 62 have accepted.

The stray email from Oakland University happened weeks before another Michigan university made a similar mistake.

Central Michigan University this month told 58 high school students that they had won the Centralis Scholar Award, which would cover their tuition, room and board, and award them $5,000 to study abroad. But a few days later, the students learned that the email was a mistake and that they hadn’t won the prestigious scholarship.

The university then told these students that it would still pay their full tuition for four years, but they would not receive any other benefits from the scholarship.

This course correction led Ms. Poindexter to wonder if Oakland University would take steps to make up for her mistake. She said she understood there was a big difference between helping 58 students with scholarships and helping 5,500, but some type of compensation seemed appropriate for her son and the other students who received the emails. erroneous emails.

“We saw what happened with Central Michigan and how they were saying, ‘We’re going to own up to our mistake,'” Ms Poindexter said. “We said, ‘Well, why wouldn’t the OU do the same? “”

Bierley said Oakland University encourages students to “submit updated transcripts and any new test scores by the fall semester to see if they might be eligible for scholarships.” additional”.

In its apology email to students, the university said: “We know that the college application process is an extremely stressful time and we are sorry for the further confusion and disappointment that this email has caused. caused.”

Ms Poindexter said the most disheartening thing was seeing her son call friends and family to tell them about the error. Oakland University had been one of his best choices, and the prospect of being a Golden Grizzly excited him.

Ms Poindexter said her son was still considering going to Oakland University but would wait to see if other colleges offered him scholarships.

“Everyone knows,” she said, “that college is expensive.”