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Education The Almighty Buck Idle

University Sues Student For Graduating Early 232

"A student who attended a private German economics and business university is being sued by the school because he finished his degree too quickly. Marcel Pohl finished 60 exams in 20 months, completing 11 semesters worth of work in only 3. The school says it is due an extra €3,000 for lost income because, "its fees are the total price for the studies, independent of how long the studies last." "When I got the lawsuit, I thought it couldn't be true. Performance is supposed to be worth something," Pohl said.
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University Sues Student For Graduating Early

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  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:37PM (#40567283)
    If they wanted to charge by the credit hour, they should have done so.
    • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:47PM (#40567461)

      Not sure about Germany, but around here they charge by the credit hour for part time (typically under 12 credit hours per semester), and anything considered "full time" (12+ credits/semester) is under a flat "full time" tuition rate. However, at least at my college, we had to get special permission to take more than 18 credits per semester (15 was considered normal, but I know this varies a lot from college to college). I wanted to get my degree is four semesters, but my advisor made me do it in six (eight is the "ideal" for a four-year degree).

      • by T-Bone-T ( 1048702 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:07PM (#40567809)

        Depending on the courses 18 hours is a lot. I finished my degree taking 15 hours and working full time. If I wasn't at school or work, I was at home studying or sleeping.

        • Same here. I finished my undergraduate "on time" but I was working 35 hours a week. And I STILL had to take out some loans, because my grants didn't cover summer tuition or books.
        • by aralin ( 107264 )

          18 hours is nothing special in Europe. In Czech Republic the standard time for your 4 year - bachelor - degree is 2.5 years and graduate - masters- degree is 4.5 years at 20 credits per semester and I did 66 credits in two semesters studying at full throttle, which was probably a little extreme. If you want to be casual about it 20 is ok, but 12? That is downright ridiculous. And caping at 18 credits per semester seems like just forced waste of time.

          • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:34PM (#40569739)

            All depends upon what they cram into each of those credit hours. 18 hours as an undergraduate left all sorts of spare time, and I knew a few that were taking 21-24 credit hours. 13 hours of graduate classes damn near killed me. 60 hours of various basket and matt weaving courses a week might get a trifle boring. 60 hours of multi-variable partial differential equations, related topics, and applied physics/engineering courses will be slightly harder to pass, if not impossible, if the material is not already known to you.

            2 things, I'm not trying to be insulting here - at my school, at least, every undergraduate hour was expected to require 1-2 hours per week of study for the target student to pass with a reasonable grade. Graduate level courses, on the other hand, required 5-8 hours each week. A slight difference, which is why an average full time graduate student usually only took 2 classes per semester with independent study time (ie, thesis/dissertation work) for the remaining hours to get to 9 hours.

          • My oldest is in pre-med and frankly i'm glad his school caps at 15 hours because otherwise he'd push himself so hard he'd end up burning out. I tried looking at those inorganic chemistry books and they may as well have been in German for all i could understand of those scribbles and he's taking physics and starting A&P on top, any more load and he'd burn.

            so i'd say its really about what you are taking, with all the genetic manipulation and insanely complex medicines we have now frankly I'd rather doct

      • They charged me per-credit for my overload schedule. Nothing was free. Ever.

        I thought education and healthcare and everything was free in Germany. ?
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:37PM (#40568211)

          He went to a private university, which can charge a lot more. How much you pay for education also depends on the state you're in. My state (NRW) was ruled by the anti-tuition SPD/Greens, then switched to a tuition model in 2005 under the new CDU/FDP government and then in 2010 abolished tuition again, when the SPD and the Greens returned. Still, there are some fees that are not considered tuition that you still have to pay, but that amounts to about 200 € per semester (e.g. a mandatory public transport ticket). Even tuition is usually only 250 €, 500 € or 1000 € per semester in publicly funded universities.

          Healthcare isn't free at all, it's just that health insurance is mandatory and also part of the welfare here. There are some corner cases where you can end up without healthcare at all, e.g. when you're self-employed.

      • by Cabriel ( 803429 )

        The local university, as I understand it, charges per credit hour up to 12 at which point you qualify for a Full-Time rate, and then if you have more than 18, they start charging per extra credit hour again. As with all hear-say, it could be wrong, but it's the word on the street for now.

    • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:47PM (#40567469) Homepage Journal

      Private institution.

      The invisible hand bribes lawmakers and sets the penalties for non-compliance.

    • It seems to me... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:04PM (#40567763)

      that you pay a university so they can pay rent, salaries of their professors and various other expenses necessary to actually have a university. A person who completed 11 semesters of work in 3 clearly didn't sit in classes (much), thereby not expending the time of instructors nor the space in the lecture halls. As an old room mate of mine used to do in university, he probably signed up for the class and went to the instructor on the first day of class and asked for the final exam.

      I'm not sure what the university thinks they lost, aside from some obtuse reference to some sort of IP claim for the quality of the education they gave the guy, which clearly couldn't have been much, since he probably didn't attend classes.

      • Funny, most uni's appear to be quite proud of those who finish early, and promote them in the bulletin and so forth. They probably think it tends to attract other smart folks.

    • by animaal ( 183055 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:40PM (#40568245)

      Actually, this could be good.

      If I fail exams and have to repeat a year or two, I don't have to pay extra for those years?

      I bet that occurs far more often than people finishing early.

    • It's too bad someone from a local mortuary couldn't give them a brain in his name with a note "here's the excess knowledge back".

      If there were no unpaid fees, there wasn't a contract fr anything else.

      If they really think that completion of a program of xx courses is what is being paid/owed for, those who paid additional fees to do it over a longer than default time should get partial refunds. Perhaps those that don't graduate should get refunds also?

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:38PM (#40567291)

    why not go all the way and say for X cash you get X degree.

    As they don't seem to care about any ones Performance just the cash.

    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )

      Nah, because they'll want you to pay more if you take longer.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Then is it also safe to assume this "school" would have no problem with a student casually taking courses for 10 or 20 years? Of course not.

        One would think they would be proud of such a motivated and capable student, but this so-called Business School is about to get their own expensive lesson in "The Streisand Effect."

        • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

          Why would they be proud of the fact that they're selling four years of education which can apparently be done in less than two?

    • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:47PM (#40567455)
      That's more or less how such "private" commercial universities work.
      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        That's pretty-much how the top ones in the US work as well. You can take the hard courses which will give you a great education. However, if that isn't your thing you can take the "Calculus and Society" courses and get a B/C as long as you show up to the exams.

        Getting into an Ivy-league school may be difficult, but graduating from one is not. If you're the son of some VIP they can't very well not give you a way to get a diploma.

    • Funny enough, it will probably cost them more than 3k in legal fees to get this kids 3k.
      • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:55PM (#40567613)

        That was how my college viewed the laptops purchased through the school. They were supposed to be paid along with the tuition bill over four semesters, but nearly half of the freshmen didn't make it past the second semester but still kept the laptop. The school would send a letter to them saying to return the laptop, pay the money or possibly face legal action. It usually didn't work, but the school made up for it by charging everyone $2500 for a laptop that would have been around $1500 retail (including three year warranty).

      • Not really. It is easy to file a lawsuit. You file pleadings, the defendant must answer (no answer = default), and the judge can be asked to rule on the pleadings or make a summary judgement. No court, no lawyers, probably get a judgement against the student which will allow the court to garnish them if the evidence is not in dispute.

      • Except if they win, it will probably be the kid footing the bill for it...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:41PM (#40567375)
    Well, let's just say my wife would have lawyered up long ago!
  • Business schools ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:42PM (#40567381) Homepage Journal

    ... what do you expect? America is infested with "business" and "management" degree-holders who don't contribute anything, don't produce anything, don't create anything, and yet have managed to worm their way into control of a substantial portion of the economy; and with schools that cater to those hoping to join their ranks. I'm not at all surprised that Germany has the same problem, or that such people turn on each other at the least opportunity. No honor among thieves.

    • Actually, we don't have that problem on the same scale. Private universities like this are pretty much Mickey-Mouse-outfits. Real science is done on the public funded universities.
      • Private universities like this are pretty much Mickey-Mouse-outfits.

        Indeed, but there are a lot of them, and they're churning out graduates who are indistinguishable, in HR's eye, from people who have real degrees from real universities. I disagree that we don't have the problem on the same scale -- AFAICT the for-profit diploma mill business is booming all over.

        Real science is done on the public funded universities.

        True enough, and as an academic scientist I'm very glad to be out of the corporate rat race. But I remember it all too well, particularly the infestation of MBAs. They've wrecked business and are now knocking on

        • With "we" I meant Germany, just in case that was ambiguous. MBA mills are still quite rare here. Not that most of the economy studies at public universities are much better, though. I left academia myself after getting fucked over by inter-departmental bickering once too much, though. Whoring myself out at a patent law firm these day. It pays the bills, and, fortunately, I got to deal with actually technical stuff, so it is not that bad. Good luck with your academic career!
    • don't create anything

      We create demand you insensitive clod!

    • I think they just wanted to be ruthless and make an example out of him to deter any other naysayers who would want to follow in his footsteps.

  • The kid works for a Bank now, if anybody knows anything about financial loopholes, its the Bank.
  • except that Stanford's policy makes it clear in advance that is, basically, a tuition requirement for a degree
    • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

      No, it's not at ALL like Stanford (or any other similar school with basically the same policies).

      Specifically, for undergrad Stanford charges flat rate tuition by the quarter for as many units as you can handle (min 12, ave 15, max somewhat negotiable with your advisor but rarely more than 20). You need 180 units to graduate with 1 degree, minimum 135 from Stanford (plus your degree requirements). If you need/want to take summer school, you pay for that quarter. If you need a whole extra year, you pay fo

      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        They just don't allow you to randomly "take exams" (same as most US universities) - you have to take the *classes* to get the units, so it's self-limiting based on how many you take per quarter.

        That's not true at all, most colleges and universities will allow you to take a course by exam. Generally there's a limit to between 20 and 25% of total credit hours, but that's generally not a problem. I know my mom finished her teaching degree by taking two of her classes by exam while she was doing her student t
        • My school made you pay for the credits when you tested out of something. But when you tested into something, you didn't have to pay for the courses below what you tested into. That's why it's so important to use the correct preposition.

        • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

          Most schools (including Stanford) let you take 20-25% of your courses somewhere else (as long as they are accredited and approved) - as I already said in my last post, that includes AP courses, which I guess you could consider just "an exam". But I completely disagree that "most" US universities will allow you to get full units for *any* course towards a BA/BS just by taking one exam, especially once you get into your degree requirements. Beginning Spanish, maybe. Applied VLSI Design or Developmental Neu

  • Sigh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:43PM (#40567395)

    Yet another company trying to legislate itself a profit.

    As far as the law *should* be concerned, unless the university had in its contract terms restricting how quickly you can graduate or something to that effect, there's no case here. If they didn't think of that, it's their own damn fault for writing a contract with a "loophole" (although I'd say that graduating that quickly by actually doing all the work quickly isn't a loophole, it's just the right way to do it).

    We really need to toughen the laws on frivolous or groundless cases.

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      The lawsuit seems really idiotic to me. If this is a problem, then go ahead and chance your policies to not allow kids to test out of classes without taking them--that's what most universities do if there are a bunch of BS classes that they need butts in just to pay the rent. Sure you're out $3k on this kid, but that's nothing, especially if you start to work up the legal fees of this crazy lawsuit. The bad press and public ridicule is not worth the $3k, a quiet rewrite of the university policies would b
      • Or maybe the university knows it can get the kid to bend over by threatening him with legal action.

  • While I can imagine it offending the purists, there wouldn't be anything fundamentally broken about a school choosing to price their services by credit-hour, or by degree, as opposed to per semester. However, if they don't do that ahead of time, that would seem to leave them with very little legal recourse if somebody manages to complete their studies faster than expected.

    If, on the other hand, the school did price that way, and the student isn't paying up as agreed because he thinks that he shouldn't ha
    • While I can imagine it offending the purists, there wouldn't be anything fundamentally broken about a school choosing to price their services by credit-hour, or by degree, as opposed to per semester.

      I can't imagine why it would offend purists or be fundamentally broken. Maybe my state university was unusual (though I doubt it), but you basically paid for two things: tuition, which was $X per credit hour, and room and board, which was a fixed amount per semester.

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      "this seems like a relatively small collections matter, which would likely be handled by masses of demand letters for a period of time before an actual suit..."

      Universities don't do collections. You pay what they think you owe, then you graduate. No money, no degree. The story smells funny, which almost always means that we don't know the whole story.

  • Now that's stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:47PM (#40567451)

    Top 3 reasons why that was a stupid move:

    1) You are attempting to sue a genius, your odds of winning are not exactly great.
    2) You just wasted hundreds of thousands in free marketing opportunities. Instead of praising the student in the media (along with your University's name), you may now end up being hated in the media.
    3) Punishing your own clients and making it public has never ammounted to a great business strategy.

  • The Local (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Corbets ( 169101 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:47PM (#40567463) Homepage

    Can you please stop posting articles from the Local? As I've explained in other threads, it's a "service" that steals content without attribution from local news sources in Germany Sweden and Switzerland, summarizes it, translates it to English, and sensationalizes it, then makes money off of your page views.

    It's crap, it's misleading, and at times it's just plain wrong. Pop over to the if you want to see what expats in the area actually think of the Local.

    As for this article, we're undoubtedly missing part of the story. Wait a few hours and see what develops once someone links a real news source.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Can you please stop posting articles from the Local? As I've explained in other threads...

      This may surprise you, but nobody cares about what you've posted in other threads.

    • by Jeng ( 926980 )

      The only part the /. crowd cares about is the translate to English portion.

      If you can find a good news source for the stories in English then post them.

      If you can't then translate it and show us what we are missing.

      • by Corbets ( 169101 )

        The only part the /. crowd cares about is the translate to English portion.

        If you can find a good news source for the stories in English then post them.

        If you can't then translate it and show us what we are missing.

        Right. Go back up to the bit about no attribution. The tell me how I should translate it for you.

    • I don't think they'll be making money off /. page views. No one here clicks the linked article.
    • Can you please stop posting articles from the Local? As I've explained in other threads, it's a "service" that steals content without attribution from local news sources in Germany Sweden and Switzerland, summarizes it, translates it to English, and sensationalizes it, then makes money off of your page views. It's crap, it's misleading, and at times it's just plain wrong.

      So it's a bit like Slashdot, except for the translation part?

    • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @04:07PM (#40568577)
      My understanding of the german article is that the problem seeems to be contractually he was supposed to pay/studay for X semester a *full* studium, finished before, and now the university want him to pay for the rest he was contractually bound to. Which is perfectely fine IMHO, if I am bound to pay for 3 month rent, and I go out after 2 month, too bad for me I have to pay the third month anyway. Naturally that depend on the extact wording of the contract, but knowing the contract from other university where friends were (Dresden) , they say pay up for X semester, they don't say pay up "until" you finished your studium.
    • by JazzLad ( 935151 )
      Wait - there was an article?
    • Re:The Local (Score:4, Informative)

      by Badge 17 ( 613974 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @04:47PM (#40569099)
      Here's another German-language article on the topic: []

      My German is a little rusty, but none of these articles seem to address at all how students typically pay, and whether the tuition/credit-hour distinction is all that relevant. On the other hand, since the Prorector they got to comment said something as stupid as, (loosely) - "If you drink a Coke twice as fast, you don't get to pay half price," and invokes the "not fair to other students" approach, it doesn't sound like the school has a particularly strong case.
  • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:48PM (#40567479)

    Best comment from the original article:

    "This story really hits home because the same thing happened to me. I finished early, yet was still expected to pay the full fee. In fairness, I should point out it was with a hooker instead of a University. But it's kind of the same thing... right?"

  • No course work? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ravenscar ( 1662985 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:49PM (#40567503)

    Seems odd to me that one could get both bachelors and masters degrees from a university solely by passing a set of exams. In other words, there was no course work required (though it sounds like he did have to complete an internship). A big part of university should be learning how research and think critically - then apply both to the world around you. Doesn't seem like much of that was happening here. This smells like a for-profit diploma mill.

    I can't say that I feel sorry that a school that has likely been gaming the education world got gamed by a few students.

    • lot's of degrees /classes are just about the tests that test how good that you are at cramming then knowing what the tests cover.

    • That is why IT needs to be apprenticeship like or at least some kind of tech school system where you do real work and have class projects.

      CS is not IT and lots of people with BA / BS in CS do not know what they are doing but they some times get in over people who don't have a BA / BS but did take tech school classes and know what they are doing.

    • He did three semesters for a Bachelors and Masters degree together. If my experience in getting a Bachelors is the same as his, then that sounds about right for taking all the courses necessary to learn research and critical thinking - the rest were pretty much just "here's the information, now regurgitate it!" courses. Besides, if the tests were any good, they'd evaluate his critical thinking skills - so if he already had those skills, then yes, he could test out of those courses too.

    • by Jeng ( 926980 )

      He did demonstrate that he is capable of doing research and thinking critically and applying it, and the school is absolutely pissed that he did so.

      The part I suspect the school is actually pissed about is how he managed with some friends to share notes regarding lectures that were taking place simultaneously. Although according to the article he and his friends did get permission before hand.

    • by pla ( 258480 )
      A big part of university should be learning how research and think critically

      "Should be" does not equal "is".

      More importantly, you seem to have missed the part about this coming from a Business school. What sort of "research" would they teach, "How to use the Myers-Briggs classification system to discriminate without breaking the law in six easy steps"?
    • by Belial6 ( 794905 )

      This smells like a for-profit diploma mill.

      There are other kinds?

      • This smells like a for-profit diploma mill.

        There are other kinds?


        Actually, that would be kinda awesome...

    • What burns me is that they can sue him with impunity and probably take advantage of their superior legal budget to out-gun him in court.

      We need loser pays badly so that charities can even the odds without putting a permanent dent in their own budgets.

  • "You want me to pay extra? Fair enough. I will go stand in front of the press and declare that, due to the ease of securing a degree, this shall no longer be considered a learned university."

    "Well, hang on a minute..."

  • by Marc_Hawke ( 130338 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:52PM (#40567561)

    The article doesn't say how fees are handle at German Universities. Do you 'subscribe' and pay by the month or something?

    At American Universities, you have two sets of fees, (both paid in advance):
            Tuition is by the class or 'credit hours.' If you want the class, you have to pay the fee. If you want to 'test out' of the class, you still pay just as much, but you only have to take one test to prove you know the material.
            Fees are there just for being a student during that time (per semester). These go to various perks and stuff you get for being a student. I've been trying to think of examples, but I can't come up with any. I know that a lot of people are always complaining about the 'athletics fee' since they don't derive any benefit out of that.

    In this example, he would have had to pay for all of his tuition for the classes he took, but he would have only had to pay the 'Fees' for the 3 months he was actually a student. I can't imagine the University saying, "pay for 2 more semesters because you're too smart." They might claim the right to use your name and story as advertising.

    • Re:Fee Structure (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mindcontrolled ( 1388007 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:01PM (#40567711)
      Private universities are a rare breed in Germany, there are only a couple, and, like the article demonstrates, they are largely in the ripping-people-off business. The majority of universities, and, in particular, the scientifically good universities, only change a nominal fee per semester - something like 500 euros nominal administrative fee or such. Been a while - I attended while the dinosaurs still roamed the earth ;)
  • Mp> ... is withhold his degree, or retract it, if it has already been given.

    There is no need for lawyers at all... if they have any legitimate entitlement to payment, they can simply hold his degree hostage until he pays the monies owed.

    That said, however, I find it absurd what they are doing... and it could have been entirely avoided if the institution had simply arranged their pricing structure more around the number of course credits being taken, rather than just per semester.

  • the bigger picture in this that one size fit all idea about college is not working and the push for college for all is leading to stuff like this.

    And it is not just on one side it is on all of them.

    * College is not the best fit for all learning styles

    * The college time tables are not the best fit for today.

    * College is not the best for people with disabilities.

    * there is to much put on the well rounded ideas.

    * Testing needs to be more open book

    * Jobs need to drop the idea need college for jobs.

    * Jobs need to look at more of a vocational school / apprenticeships system (also put internships in hear (not tied to college))

    * More schools maybe should stop offering BA, BS, AA, AS and move to a smaller chunk Badges system.

    * Colleges need to cut down the filler and required classes as well need credits.

    * All credits for any school need to be transferred 100% no BS like you must take our math classes.

    * Drop all swim tests and needed PE classes.

    • The bigger picture here, as alumnus from a German public university, is that private unis have the only purpose of fucking you in the arse, grabbing your purse, slitting your throat then fucking your corpse for good measure. Degree mills for MBAs at an outrageous cost, scientifically worthless. Education is provided by evil socialist public universities.
  • by j00r0m4nc3r ( 959816 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:11PM (#40567867)
    Performance is supposed to be worth something

    Yeah, it's worth exactly -€3,000. Maybe you didn't learn as much about economics as you thought...
  • Did they up the needed classes or credits after he stared and now they want him to pay for them.

  • This will get interesting once the libertarians show up...

  • First side of the coin:

    "Performance is supposed to be worth something," Pohl said.

    He's quite right, and in the parlance of business law his university did indeed "perform" on its contract with him. Assuming a court of law would consider the this total price the university wants in exchange for his education and freshly minted degree to be fair, an equivalent exchange of value, and not usurious, then he "got his money's worth" and shut up and put up.

    Second side:

    On the other hand... it sounds like the university has a really stupid self-injurious contract for educat

  • Idiots. They will lose far more than 3000 Euros from the bad publicity. Who wants to go to a university that sues their best students?
    I wonder if the alumni association will have the balls to call him for donations in the years to come...

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus