CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kahmiele Kemp is a chemistry major at Johnson C. Smith University. She has an academic scholarship from JCSU, and pays the rest of her tuition with federal and state loans. The extra loan money helps her with living expenses, like rent and books.
Monday, Kemp discovered that her scholarship was gone.
"My rent was due, so I went to see if I could get an advance on my loan refund," explained Kemp. "She told me, 'You can't get an advance because you only have $35 for a refund.' I told her I had just been validated and they told me I have a $1,535 refund."
Kemp said the school explained because the amount of her loans covered tuition, her scholarship was not applied to her account.
"She said, 'We are taking the government money, adding it up and if you have enough your scholarship goes back into the scholarship fund.' It is important I get this money, this is what I need to live," said Kemp. "This is an academic scholarship, not aid from the government. The government did not say to give me this scholarship, I earned it. I signed for it. I did not sign for you to take it away."
Johnson C. Smith University President Dr. Ronald Carter explained to NBC Charlotte that Kemp doesn't have to sign the scholarship away -- because it never really existed in the first place.
"The majority of our students are on discounts. We try to encourage them by saying this is a merit scholarship," explained Carter. "Institutional aid is just discounting."
When asked if calling the institutional aid a "scholarship" could be confusing for students, Dr. Carter said, "It may very well be confusing and this is why we keep saying this is really discounting."
Kemp claimed she never knew her scholarship was just a tuition discount based on financial need. The word discount is not on the scholarship contract. It does, however, list academic standards she must meet in order to receive the full amount through 2015.
"Last semester they didn't say nothing about it, and I got my refund," said Kemp.
Carter said that the school scholarships -- or discounts, as he calls them -- were redistributed to other students this semester because of a decision by the Department of Education that caused more than 400 JCSU students to lose their "Parent Plus" loans. Carter admitted the school even increased the number of discounts given to help more students stay in school.
"If the federal government had not done this, we would not be having this conversation. We want to give as many students as we can the ability to get an education, so I increased the discounts," said Carter. "I said we have to do the very best we can to keep these students here. Very few other schools would do that. We did that because we care."
Carter said JCSU allowed students to go on payment plans. He also said the entire student body is aware scholarships are not given to those who have enough loan money to cover tuition.
Kemp, who maintains she had no idea this was even a possibility until she was told this week, is worried about other students who may soon find themselves in the same boat.
JCSU did offer Kemp a Resident Assistant position after NBC Charlotte's story. This will allow her to stay in school.