University Sues Student For Graduating Too Fast

from the don't-expect-an-alumni-gift dept

Here’s an odd one. The School of Economics and Management in Essen, Germany is suing former student, Marcel Pohl, for graduating too quickly. You see, he finished all of the necessary exams for both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in 20 months — representing three semesters. Normally, it takes students 11 semesters, and the school feels ripped off. The complaint is that, even though they charge per semester, what they’re really charging for is the degree, and Pohl didn’t pay enough for his. So they want another €3,000.

Of course, in the details, we learn that part of the reason he was able to take so many exams is that he teamed up with two friends and they all traded notes on classes they didn’t actually attend. You can question whether or not that meets academic ethics requirements, but the fact is that Pohl still did pass the required exams, and met all of the qualifications to graduate — and the University apparently let him graduate before it realized what happened. It’s hard to see what the legal issue is here. Perhaps instead of suing, they should look at their own setup and question why they force students to spend 11 semesters on material when at least some can get through it all in about a quarter of the time…

In the meantime, was there really no one at the school who didn’t think that the cost of legal fees and negative publicity combined is very likely to exceed the money they’re seeking?

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Comments on “University Sues Student For Graduating Too Fast”

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65 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

If they charge by the degree, shouldn’t someone who doesn’t graduate get their money back?

Also, I think the real story here is that there are schools in europe that are apparently ~$500/semester (maybe that explains why they think that this lawsuit is in some way a good idea…). I think that would have covered the “misc. fees” section of my tuition.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“If they charge by the degree, shouldn’t someone who doesn’t graduate get their money back?”

Even better. Those of us that took longer then normal, and still graduated. I took light loads and enjoyed college. It took me five years instead of four. I think I should have gotten that last year for free!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think the usual logic is that because he didn’t attend those classes, he shouldn’t be allowed to have access to the notes. There’ve been a lot of posts where professors and publishers go to great lengths to make sure students don’t have access to learning material unless it’s through their expensively legitimate means.

Whether the student is to blame for anything, though, I can’t imagine any of this ending well for the university. On the one hand it looks like they’re jealously going after a genius or someone who managed to figure out their loopholes; on the other hand, it looks like their management failed and they couldn’t catch a guy who shouldn’t have graduated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

He could be a genious or he could be gaming the system by studying for the same-type-of-exam-each-year classes. From my experience it is more likely to be the latter.

The lawsuit is stupid, since it is not the students fault. imo. it falls back on whoever makes the exams and I think it is more telling about the lazy professors than the university when cases like this is brought to court…

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

A classic Mike moment

The school should take another look at what their business actually is.

Are they trying to educate students or just collect fees for students being there?

The student was highly motivated to get his education in the shortest period of time and did just that. The university wants to charge him for time and resources that he didn’t use or need.

Maybe they should be suing him for copyright infringements on the notes he used. That might be a stronger case.

Berenerd (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I knew this back when I went to school in 93-97. i got academically dismissed from school. I had 2 semesters where I was driving 8 hours home and 8 hours back to school to help my mother because my dad died. I had a good deal of stress but was getting passable grades but they felt my grades were not all c+ or better so I was not keeping up (my GPA when they booted me was 2.14 out of 4). I went to the academic review board to plea my case, but they felt as I was there with government grants and loans, I was not an acceptible risk. So I talked to the girl who was after me while the board discussed my situation, her GPA was 0.2 it had been from her first semester to her…9th…and they kept her because mommy and daddy was paying her way. I knew then it was all about money..not teaching.

Anonymous Coward of Esteemed Trolling (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Berenerd, that is a irritating and depressing story.
I hope you succeed in your educational, financial and career aims. Failing that, which may be a blessing in disguise, i hope you have a happier life than 0.2GPA genius girl !
You should look at what “0.2GPA genius girl” is doing now, it may make you lulz, for a start you know she aint got a Nobel Peace Prize for a spectacular physics discovery.
I bet …a “beauty technician” or a willfully subordinate, dipsy housewife.

Janne says:

Ethics?

“You can question whether or not that meets academic ethics requirements” Um, what? Why wouldn’t it? If you pass the exams, you pass the course – you’ve shown that you’ve acquired the knowledge required to pass the course. I don’t see why there’d be any reason to question anything.

Of course I might be wrong in thinking that the point is to learn and show learning, and to share information, not to respect imaginary intellectual property rights. Trading notes with fellow students is a sign of a good, independent, motivated student.

DogBreath says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sounds like this university has a “all-you-can-eat buffet” type of situation going on, and then wants to alter the definition after the fact.

The university agreed to this deal according to the grad, and only after he “defeated” them, wants to change the terms. I bet they thought this guy was just another stupid perpetual student who was soooo full of himself and would not be able to pass their tests without going through the “alleged” required courses, because nobody is that smart or motivated. I guess he proved them wrong, and you know how academia doesn’t like to be proved wrong.

abc gum says:

Bought a Mercedes Benz the other day – cash – it was reasonably priced and in good condition. So today I get a call from the prior owner claiming that I under paid for the automobile and I owed him an additional 3,000 because his price is based upon the car, not the number of miles.

The above was not intended to be a factual statement, however – it is an analogy and includes a car.

Fanic says:

It's a sad truth

Schools are not in the business of educating students so they can graduate with a degree and be successful. All good/positive reasons have been corroded away by greed like every other business. It’s all about money. How many students can we get in? How much can we choke them for before they leave to another school? How long can we keep them locked up in required classes to choke more money out of them? Most colleges look at early graduation as a sign that they did something wrong and need to rearrange the courses so it does not happen again. It all about the dollars.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: It's a sad truth

This is a fact that I have experienced personally. I went to a school that was corporate owned (big mistake) to get a Bachelor’s. At the start, we had a schedule that spread classes across the whole week, classes were 11 weeks long, and we had 1-2 off at the end of each 11 week period. As time went on, they progressively tried to compress this timeline in order to push more students through the program, which put pressure on students and caused many to fail or bail. Instead of spread out scheduling, we had 5 hour blocks for a single class, which meant that we saw the instructor once a week at best. The breaks were shortened to 1 week maximum and in some cases the breaks were less or disappeared altogether. At this point I couldn’t keep up with the demands of the program (also because I have Adult ADD, which they reluctant to accommodate to the point that the dept. chair was completely against the notion) and I had to drop out.

I learned that this continued after my resignation. They compressed the timeline further to 5 week classes, with nearly no break at all during the year. It was then I came to realize that they were trying to compress the program in order to put as many students through their system as possible to increase revenue regardless of whether the education they received was practically beneficial or not. In fact, the farther I got in the program, the more I realized how utterly useless the education they were providing was. It was a vague and over-generalized program that failed to teach any proficiency in any discipline that would be marketable to employers in that industry. They were pushing a fantasy on the students to get them to come in and give their federal aid to them, which meant students were left with a degree that was useless in any practical sense and a huge debt against them that they had no way to get a job that could pay it off. They lied to us about how we were going to have great careers to gull us into sacrificing our FAFSA funds that could have been used to get a real education.

This was in 2010. I’m now 30, I’m married (my wife has a spinal injury and can’t currently work), and I have a child who will turn a year old this month. I’m unemployed and my ADHD has deteriorated to the point that I’m hardly functioning in my own household. I have over $100K in debt that I can’t pay back and the deferments are running out. Eventually, I will be forced to pay it back whether I can or not. If I don’t, I may have to declare bankruptcy (which I may not likely even be able to do that) or possibly loose all the government food assistance I’m receiving. These profit-focused schools are destroying people’s lives. My case is probably one of the worst given my cognitive disability/disorder.

Before someone tries to counter my story with a “nobody held a gun to your head, it was your choice” line, let me point out that I was conned, lied to, and pressured into this arrangement. Former admissions reps have come forward and admitted that they were compelled to use high pressure tactics to “make the decision for the student”. It was very much a predatory operation. I was promised a dream and I had no idea what I was getting into.

TL;DR

I know exactly what you mean. I lived it.

Anonymous Coward says:

This guy is nothing but a resourceful cheater. Nothing more. In education, you attend classes, take your own notes and read the book. Then you are prepared for class discussions where you are challenged to think for yourself to come up with educated and in some cases logical or unique answers. This means using your own mind not someone elses.

Me says:

This guy is nothing but a resourceful cheater. Nothing more. In education, you attend classes, take your own notes and read the book. Then you are prepared for class discussions where you are challenged to think for yourself to come up with educated and in some cases logical or unique answers. This means using your own mind not someone elses.

Me says:

This guy is nothing but a resourceful cheater. Nothing more. In education, you attend classes, take your own notes and read the book. Then you are prepared for class discussions where you are challenged to think for yourself to come up with educated and in some cases logical or unique answers. This means using your own mind not someone elses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Nonesense.

It is up to the institution to ensure they set robust standards. Anyone who meets their standards for passing, meets their standards for passing.

It’s unacceptable that someone capable of meeting the standards ought to spend money attending classes they obviously do not need, just so these “educators” can ticket clip. The authority to offer a degree or qualification is not supposed to be money printing licenses.

Either this person has demonstrated they meet the standard where they deserve this qualification, or this institution is handing out qualifications without ensuring candidates merit them. That would be a very disturbing situation.

The fact is his note taking friends did not sit the exam for him. The point of the lectures, classes and notes is to learn the information and acquire the skills necessary to merit the qualification. Either the examination process is utterly useless, or the candidate merited their degree.

DogBreath says:

Re: Re: Re:

It is up to the institution to ensure they set robust standards. Anyone who meets their standards for passing, meets their standards for passing.

My sentiments exactly.

The authority to offer a degree or qualification is not supposed to be money printing licenses.

Unfortunately, for the many students with (or without) degrees, that is all that it turns out to be.

Either the examination process is utterly useless, or the candidate merited their degree.

Or, in many cases, both.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out this lawsuit is based upon something as stupid as the books he didn’t need to purchase from the university in the first place to pass the courses. Unless, that first place had nothing to do with teaching the student anything about the knowledge he need to pass the tests, but was more likely to teach the old adage: “A fool and his money are soon parted”.

DogBreath says:

Re: Re:

This guy is nothing but a resourceful cheater.

This guy is nothing but a resourceful GRADUATE.

FTFY

Then you are prepared for class discussions where you are challenged to think for yourself to come up with educated and in some cases logical or unique answers.

In many, many courses there are only two answers: The wrong one (i.e. student answers) and right one (i.e. what the instructor wants you to answer).

Thinking for yourself in these types of classes will only get you in trouble, and a less than passing grade.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In education, you attend classes, take your own notes and read the book.

So I guess all that advanced stuff I learned on my own by reading books isn’t actually learning at all? I just cheated? But it’s a good sort of cheating that leaves me able to perform higher mathematics, advanced software engineering, business management, etc.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

The German Equivalent of the University of Phoenix.

No Germans have turned up to discuss the case, so a few comments are in order.

German universities are different from American universities– they are more like graduate schools. The German academic secondary school certificate, the Abitur, includes all the foreign languages and math that you will ever need, unless you become an engineer, a mathematician or hard scientist, a philologist, or something like that. There are no general education requirements after the Abitur, so it’s really more like a Bachelor’s degree, earned at the age of nineteen or so, with kids staring serious work at the age of twelve. University students start studying one definite subject, such as law or economics– or they join a fraternity, and start making up for lost time on their adolescence (the classic duel-fighting Heidelberg Korps-student).

Another way in which German universities differ is that they are traditionally “Royal Universities,” even though the Kaiser has since been replaced by a republic, and a series of states, or “lander.” The full professors are civil servants, paid their salary by the government. An assistant professor is known as a “privatdozent,” traditionally meaning that he has no official standing but makes a living collecting fees from students. Private universities are, almost by definition, disreputable, inferior, and suspect.

This school seems to be the:

FOM – Hochschule fur Oekonomie und Management – University of Applied Sciences

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FOM_%E2%80%93_Hochschule_f%C3%BCr_Oekonomie_und_Management_%E2%80%93_University_of_Applied_Sciences

It seems to have been founded in 1990, privately owned, and it is apparently a sort of extension school, the German equivalent of the University of Phoenix. It probably caters to people who were not in the academic track in high school, and were diverted to apprenticeships at the age of sixteen. My guess is that this student came in, probably with a regular academic background, and knocked over a whole bunch of examinations for things he had been taught at the age of sixteen or seventeen (at least one foreign language, more likely two, math up to calculus, stuff like that), it seems he spent twenty months mastering the specific content of an MBA, starting from scratch, which is not abnormal, compared to what people do at the better American MBA programs. He may very well have worked an eighty-hour week, half on his job and half on school, and in that case, he would have stood out, compared to people who were working only fifty hours, say twenty on school and thirty on their jobs.

I’m not sure whether there is such a thing as a regular American-style MBA in Germany, in the sense of one being offered by a reputable university. I suspect that a regular German university might have wanted someone with an Abitur to spend, say, four years doing a Ph.D in economics, writing a thesis, and all. Once you get off the main track of an educational system, you find a lot of courses and programs which are designed for people who are not very good at learning from books. The main gateposts of an educational system, such as the German Abitur, are essentially certificates that someone _is_ good at learning from books. There is sometimes a kind of student who is good at learning from books, but who refuses to identify with the values of the university. He wants to get an educational credential which is “good enough,” and get out into the world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Two things:

1) A student of the School of Economics and Management, showed both Economic and Management savy by passing the course in such a short period of time.

2) Would you take a course at a School of Economics and Management when it shows that it is making a huge economic mistake by wasting more money on lawyers then they’d regain in fees? Not to mention the huge PR Management snafu.

Dave (profile) says:

Grab Him!

I would think that, if he’s as bright and resourceful as he appears, Oxford, or Stanford, or MIT, or any of a dozen really good schools would be in a major arm-wressling match to get him on their campus. Let’s see what happens.

Oh, BTW, the original “school” has shown it’s true colors, and lost the PR war, big time. With any luck, they’ll never recover.

Brent (profile) says:

i haven’t read all the other comments but this is exactly what is wrong with education today, especially higher education. The point of going to school now is really more about the experience rather than the education and the schools are catering to that b/c it leads to longer stays before graduation. They just have to balance it with retention rates and they have a golden formula to $$$. Aside from true geniuses, it’s not easy to graduate early by more than a year b/c the schools make it hard. My school had 2 solid years of GECs that were completely useless to my degree but they argue a ‘well rounded’ education is better. While i don’t disagree, the point of high school is to provide that well rounded education so i can specialize and focus on my career path in college.

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