How damage to a dorm can affect your job hunting

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Q:   I completed an online job application and checked off that I had completed a bachelor’s degree at a local college.  I received a degree confirmation statement from the college, back in the fall, for a December, 2023 graduation.  In February, I received a letter saying that they will not release my diploma because I have several “outstanding financial obligations,” or something like that. Now, I am a beyond stressed.  It may have been for a problem with a dorm room where I lived as a sophomore.  I am afraid that this will hurt my chances of landing a job.  Have you ever heard of this happening?

A:  Colleges and universities may withhold a transcript and/or diploma if there are outstanding debts owed to them by a graduating student.  Some examples include unpaid parking tickets, property damage or unreturned items loaned to a student.  I have heard this most recently with athletic equipment, which was returned, but in damaged condition.  In this specific example, the student was required to pay a replacement fee for the piece of equipment.  Only then, would the college release his diploma and confirm that he graduated from the college.

Often colleges and universities will include this information in their student handbook, or the online “rules and regulations” section of their student commencement guide.  It is a common practice since it is often the last opportunity that your undergraduate college can collect monies due to them.

You should contact your college.  I would start by reaching out to the person’s name on that letter.  If you believe it was because of damage done to a dorm room, the cost to repair the room may be the financial obligation, which may have never caught up with you until now. Sometimes, though not always, a payment plan can be established if the financial obligation is significant.  If it is repairing a closet door, then it might be worth it to pay off the entire debt.  Most colleges will accept a credit card for any outstanding financial obligations.  If the debt is excessive, then you might want to ask to establish a payment plan.  Some colleges permit that as an option, while others do not.

If you are a finalist for a new job where they are likely to check your educational background, you should move quickly with contacting your college.  You may be forced to reveal your situation.  If this is the case, you should explain that you are in the process of resolving the matter as quickly as possible.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.

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