German School Sues Student for Early Graduation, Lost Income

Being an overachiever may now bring financial burdens all their own after the Essen, Germany-based School of Economics and Management sued a student who managed to fulfill the requirements for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in three semesters. Typically, the entire program would take 11 semesters and over 60 exams.

The school is saying that it has suffered $3,772 in income loss due to the fact that Marcel Pohl shot through the program so quickly. Pohl was able to complete the degree with the help of friends who took notes for him in courses he couldn’t personally attend due to scheduling conflicts. At the time he was racking up credits at the SEM, he was also completing an apprenticeship at a local bank.

Pohl, who now works for a bank in Frankfurt, says that he made the school aware of his plans and faced no objections. Now, the 22-year-old graduate may face his alma mater in a courtroom.

“When I got the lawsuit, I thought it couldn’t be true,” Pohl recently told the German tabloid, Bild. “Performance is supposed to be worth something.”

It’s unclear how the school arrived at its estimate of financial harm, since it is only a fraction of what a full 5.5-year program would cost. The school’s representatives declined to comment until the lawsuit makes it in front of a judge.

When reporting on this story, U.S. News & World Report asked its readers if they thought it likely that a U.S. school could take similar steps to discourage students from graduating early. With college tuition costs going up, and with the cost of every semester adding a hefty chunk to the students’ bills, it is reasonable to predict that more people will be taking steps to complete their degrees in less time that the customary four years.

This is especially true now that the cost of student loans is expected to go up, even with a recent bipartisan agreement to keep interest rates on federal student loans at 3.4% for at least another year. Last month the government eliminated the 6-month grace period offered to students who have completed their graduate degrees before the interest on their loans begins to accrue.

The elimination of the grace period will mean that students will be on the hook for an additional $20 billion of loan repayments. But the change is already having an impact on the choices made by some students, like Clarise McCants who says that she will not have to delay enrolling in the graduate degree program, as she had previously planned.