News 8 Investigates: State collecting decades-old debt at SCSU

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Cheryl DiPalo was expecting a modest tax refund of just over $220 from the state of Connecticut. When she checked her account after it was electronically deposited, she noticed it was a little short.

The Guilford mother who runs Heritage Collision in Guilford with her husband thought maybe she had just misread what she was getting back.

Then she got a letter in the mail from the Department of Revenue Services saying it held $43.88 from her tax return.

She wasn’t going to pursue the reason why but decided to call a number provided to explain why the money was taken out.

The number was to the Southern Connecticut State University Student Account Services. At first, the person on the other end of the call didn’t know what she was talking about.

DiPalo got her answer about ten minutes later.

“He stated it was a charge from 1987. I said, ‘1987??’ That’s when I went to college (at SCSU) for one year from 1986 to 1987,” DiPalo told News 8 Investigates George Colli. “That’s when he told me it was for dorm room damage charge and I said, ‘dorm room damage charge?”

Yes, the state of Connecticut withheld $43.88 for an alleged dorm room damage charge when she was in college 32 years ago.

“I said, ‘do you have a bill that you could produce for me? Can you tell me what damage it was? They said no, they couldn’t produce a bill,” said DiPalo. “They didn’t know where the bill was sent. They had no idea what kind of damage was done because since then their portals had been updated.”

DiPalo says all of her college bills went to her parents house. She says they lived there until recently and none of them ever saw a bill for dorm damage.

“It’s not about the $43.88 because I don’t ever expect to see that again or care about it,” said DiPalo. “It’s just the principal that 32 years later?? I’ve been filing a tax return for 32 years. I’ve never moved out of Connecticut and 32 years later they caught up to me.”

News 8 Investigates spoke with officials at the Department of Revenue Services and Southern Connecticut State University to try and get to the bottom on it.

SCSU spokesman Joe Musante sent the answer in a statement and Cheryl may not be the only SCSU alum to see some money taken out of her account.

“We don’t comment on individual student accounts. But more generally, our policy changed in November in terms of the threshold at which we pursue past student debts through income tax intervention. Previously, there was a $50 minimum threshold before we pursued that option. There is no longer any minimum.”

Musante added that the school does have records of any old debts it is trying to collect but it was not available to be seen by the Student Accounts office when Cheryl called them. He says any former student who finds themselves in a similar situation is encouraged to contact the Office of Student Accounts with any questions they may have.

If anyone has a similar story, let News 8 Investigates know by emailing George.Colli@WTNH.com.

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