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Diploma held hostage to unpaid college bills can hurt job search

Q: I recently applied for a job and listed my education as having a bachelor’s degree. I completed all the course requirements. I participated in the graduation ceremonies in May. I received a letter several weeks ago from my college. They are now saying that they will not release my diploma because I have several unpaid parking tickets. I am afraid this will hurt my chances of landing a job. Have you ever heard of this happening?

A: Colleges and universities may withhold a transcript or diploma if there are outstanding debts owed them by a graduating student. Some examples include unpaid parking tickets, reimbursement for property damage repairs, or unreturned items loaned to a student, such as library books.

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Often colleges and universities will include this information in their student handbooks. It is a common practice since it is often the last opportunity that a college can collect money due to them.

If you believe the parking tickets were given to you in error, you should have appealed the tickets when you received them.

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It sounds as if the parking tickets you received were legitimate. If that is the case, it would probably be smart to pay the tickets so you can proceed with your job search. If a prospective employer checked your academic background, your college would likely state that your graduation requirements have not been met. This is not the way you want to begin a new position with a new company.

My advice is to contact your college. The bursar’s office is probably a good place to start. Explain that you need for your transcript and diploma released. They will likely accept a credit card.

If you are a finalist for a job, they are likely to check your educational background, so you should move quickly. 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.

Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton.
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