Tuskegee University Students Protest

Borrowing a page from the early days of civil rights movement, students at Tuskegee University staged a brief sit-in demonstration at 8:00 Friday morning. They were upset over not receiving their financial aid payments, but their protest only lasted about an hour. They were told to come back at 1:00 Friday afternoon and the issue would be resolved. So what happened when they went back?

Like at other schools, there are students at Tuskegee University whose lives are totally dependent on their financial aid. But those students, like Kelly Reece who is a Veterinary Medicine student, say the University is always late and that causes them big problems. "If I don't have my money is about two weeks, I'm going to have to drop out of school and go get a job so I don't get kicked out of my house."

It's that serious for Kelly and the other students who began gathering at 12:30 pm at the financial aid office - waiting to receive their checks. They say the delay has been more than a month and Kelly is doubtful the school will keep its word that the students will get their loan or grant or scholarship checks at 1:00 o'clock. "I'm already behind on my house payment. I'm behind on my electric bill and I'm from a poor family. I can't call Mommy and Daddy up and ask for some money."

And, that's the same desperation others here talked about like Zawadi Bethea who is another Veterinary medicine student.  "Some classes - they're early in the morning 8:00 o'clock, 7:00 o'clock and some students, depending on what level of class you're in, don't get out until 6:00. So, you don't have time to work another job. Plus, you're studying all day and all night."

And, as the crowd grew larger and the clock reached the 1:00 o'clock hour, the door opened to let the students in and a few minutes later they came out to cheers while they held up their checks.  One of them was Veterinary Medicine student Lauren Rowe. "I feel great because it's less stressful. Vet school is already stressful and now we can go home and not worry about the bills. We can go and study like we're suppose to."

The students like Kelly say they think the morning's sit-in worked.  "I'm going to go and pay my mortgage that's overdue. I'm going to pay my utility bills that are overdue. Get my water taken care of. Pay my car insurance and I think I'm going to go to the grocery store."

The students say the University receives their loan checks and then takes out of them their tuition and school costs and gives the rest of the money to them for living expenses, and those are the checks the school is accused to paying late every semester.

Tuskegee University said it had no comment on the protest or delayed checks.

Reporter: Eileen Jones