OMAHA, Neb. — In 2011, Danielle Powell was just months away from graduating from a conservative Christian college in Nebraska when she fell in love with another woman, a strictly forbidden relationship at a school where even prolonged hugs were banned.
Powell said she was working at a foundation in Mississippi to finish her psychology degree when she was called back to Grace University in Omaha and confronted about the relationship. She was eventually expelled — then sent a bill for $6,000 to reimburse what the school said were federal loans and grants that needed to be repaid because she didn't finish the semester.
Powell argues that her tuition was covered by scholarships and that federal loans wouldn't need to be repaid in that amount.
“I shouldn't have this debt hanging over me from a school that clearly didn't want me,” the 24-year-old said.
Grace University's code of conduct for all students is strict: No kissing, no prolonged hugs and certainly no premarital sex. The school even monitors students' television habits, forbidding HBO, MTV, Comedy Central and several other channels “because of the values they promote.” The rules are laid out in a student handbook and signed by students every year.
The university insists that the $6,000 must be repaid to the federal government because Powell didn't finish her final semester. School officials declined to discuss specifics of Powell's case.
The Department of Education said in an email that the issue of whether Powell owes money is between her and the school — but “it's not at all because of federal rules.”
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