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University in Michigan accidentally tells 5,500 students they received nearly full scholarships

Central Michigan University also wrongly informed undergrads they were getting money — but then honored the mistaken scholarships.

Oakland University in Michigan mistakenly told 5,500 incoming students they'd receive nearly full scholarships, chalking up the mishap to "human error," officials at the school said Monday.

The email gaffe by the school just outside Detroit, which happened Jan. 4 and was corrected within hours, came after Central Michigan University, or CMU, recently admitted to a similar error involving 58 students — but it is still awarding those mistaken scholarships.

Image: Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Mich.
Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Mich., in September 2009. Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News via AP file

"I don't think it would be" feasible to grant those 5,500 full scholarships, said Oakland University spokesman Brian Bierley, who declined to comment on CMU's decision to honor the 58 grants. "We're just trying to work through Oakland's situation."

The 5,500 Oakland students were mistakenly told they were receiving the Platinum Presidential Scholar Award, the school's highest grant, which is good for $12,000 a year and covers nearly all of a freshman's or a sophomore's $13,934 annual tuition.

They had applied for university scholarships and had been granted lesser awards, typically $1,000 to $5,000, which will still be granted, Bierley said.

Undergraduate Admissions Director Shane Lewis and the vice president for enrollment management, Dawn M. Aubry, said in a joint statement: "Unfortunately, due to a human error, the email was inadvertently sent to you and others who had not received Presidential Scholar awards. Please know we take this unfortunate mistake very seriously and would like to sincerely apologize."

The mishap, coupled with CMU's move to honor its mistaken scholarships, left a bad taste in the mouth of Gwen Poindexter, whose son Carnell Poindexter, a senior at West Bloomfield High School in Michigan, received the errant Oakland email.

"It's disheartening. CMU is willing to own their mistake and not just own it, but right it. OU's like: 'Oh, yeah, we made a mistake. Deal with it,'" Poindexter said Monday. “It has not soured Carnell [on Oakland University], but it has soured me."

The school said it is sympathetic to the “stressful” times faced by students and families seeking to make ends meet for higher education.

"We know the college application process is an extremely stressful time and we are sorry for the added confusion and disappointment this email has caused," Lewis and Aubry said. "While we know that this message will not make up for our mistake, we wanted to share our deep regret that this error occurred, and our deep compassion toward all those affected."