Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do? [solved]

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PNWAbroad
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Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do? [solved]

Post by PNWAbroad » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:31 am

I’m facing a situation which, to the best of my Googling ability, is pretty unusual. It’s also the type of dilemma that probably has a clear solution but I thought I’d at least air it out before acting.

In brief, I’m a military reservist and master’s student at a well-regarded American university. I took a leave of absence from my studies earlier this year with two quarters remaining in my program to complete a lengthy (expected return of summer 2019) deployment abroad.

While deployed, I’ve received several emails from my university indicating that I had, in fact, graduated. I ignored them, assuming I had remained on some distro list along with the rest of my class and that they didn’t apply to me.

It was to my great surprise last week then when the school shipped my diploma to my hometown address. I also received an email stating that my status as a graduate would be updated with the National Student Clearinghouse. I later checked my electronic transcript and confirmed that I had been conferred my degree. By all appearances then, I seem to have graduated.

I think this must be in error – I haven’t completed what I understand to be the minimum number of credits toward a degree, nor have I written a thesis, which is typically required.

I wouldn’t mind it being true though – by graduating early I’d be able to begin my job search while deployed, look into more advanced graduate programs and simply broaden the array of options and geographies available to me. I’d also save a bit of money, primarily in the form of opportunity cost.

I already plan on contacting my university to clear things up, but before spoiling my own fun I wanted to ask: could I accurately present myself as a graduate of the university? If there was an error, could the university come back and revoke my degree at some point in the future?

Any input or perspective appreciated.
Last edited by PNWAbroad on Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

PoppyA
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by PoppyA » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:37 am

Thank you for your service?
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by TimeRunner » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:41 am

Well, you know what the right thing to do is.

Consider this: You don't say anything and it's on your resume. You've relied on that to progress in your career. You've raised a family, mentored others, and have a reputation as a trusted solid person. Suddenly, for some probably strange and certainly unforeseen reason, you are caught out and consequences ensue. Was it worth it?
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by nisiprius » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:46 am

I would certainly contact the university. I don't think there are any actual laws on what a university can or cannot do with respect to granting degrees, so it is just barely possible that a human at the university reviewed your record and decided that, for some reason, they had the discretion to cut you some slack. Unlikely, but who knows?
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by flossy21 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:49 am

Suppose your CO contacted you and said you had been nominated for a medal. A Bronze Star for instance. The problem is that you know you didn't do the things that supposedly earned you the nomination. Would you tell your CO the truth?

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by ResearchMed » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:53 am

PNWAbroad wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:31 am
I’m facing a situation which, to the best of my Googling ability, is pretty unusual. It’s also the type of dilemma that probably has a clear solution but I thought I’d at least air it out before acting.

In brief, I’m a military reservist and master’s student at a well-regarded American university. I took a leave of absence from my studies earlier this year with two quarters remaining in my program to complete a lengthy (expected return of summer 2019) deployment abroad.

While deployed, I’ve received several emails from my university indicating that I had, in fact, graduated. I ignored them, assuming I had remained on some distro list along with the rest of my class and that they didn’t apply to me.

It was to my great surprise last week then when the school shipped my degree to my hometown address. I also received an email stating that my status as a graduate would be updated with the National Student Clearinghouse. I later checked my electronic transcript and confirmed that I had been conferred my degree. By all appearances then, I seem to have graduated.

I think this must be in error – I haven’t completed what I understand to be the minimum number of credits toward a degree, nor have I written a thesis, which is typically required.

I wouldn’t mind it being true though – by graduating early I’d be able to begin my job search while deployed, look into more advanced graduate programs and simply broaden the array of options and geographies available to me. I’d also save a bit of money, primarily in the form of opportunity cost.

I already plan on contacting my university to clear things up, but before spoiling my own fun I wanted to ask: could I accurately present myself as a graduate of the university? If there was an error, could the university come back and revoke my degree at some point in the future?

Any input or perspective appreciated.
Welcome to BH (slightly belatedly) and also, thank you for your service.
It is people like you who make it possible for ALL of us to live the comfortable lives we have.

Okay... your dilemma...
Wow. I bet you never expected it to get past the "email stage"!

I'd contact the University, perhaps phrasing it something like, "... wanted to check whether I have indeed satisfied all of the requirements for the degree, as I understood there was at least one requirement remaining..."

It's tempting to leave it, as you do have a "real" (e.g., not forged, as others have done!) diploma, and apparently the University would state "yes" when you are famous, and some journalist goes looking into your background, and asks, "Did PNWabroad really graduate?" That's NOT a time you want someone to realize there was a mistake.

Is there ANY chance that you really have somehow satisfied some combination of requirements and did earn the degree?

I personally wouldn't want to live any time at all wondering "whether/when I'll be 'found out'".
And that's on top of "just knowing" that what I had done wasn't right, etc.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by student » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:55 am

This is very unusual indeed. My employer (a midsize state university) has both human and computer program to check requirements. I would think that most universities have this in place. If you are two quarters worth of courses short, it is very unlikely that anybody can waive it legitimately. I agree with you that you should contact the university but I suggest that you contact the department chair or, even better, the graduate officer (who is overseeing the graduate programs) of the department, if it has one.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by celia » Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:04 pm

Do you have a common name? Maybe your records got mixed up with someone else's. Have you checked your transcript?

I think that since you're no longer there, it could have been presented posthumously. :D

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by JPH » Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:19 pm

Tell them they made a mistake and demand a higher degree. :happy Thank you for your service.
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celia
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by celia » Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:22 pm

The more common situation is that students leave school and move away, thinking they have completed all the requirements when they haven't. They may have even signed up to walk in the ceremony, which you can often do if your remaining work is expected to be done before the next graduation ceremony. They forget to follow up on a missing diploma or don't care about "the piece of paper" or assume they misplaced it.

I don't know how prevalent this is, but the public college I attended has been trying to get their graduation rates up by contacting those who left with just a few courses remaining. Many of those students are surprised! But the college works with them to finish by taking online courses or attend a college near where they now live.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by PVW » Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:26 pm

For some graduate degrees, the degree requirements really boil down to whatever your graduate committee or advisor will accept. Even if there are published requirements, the committee can allow variations.

Did you have a graduate advisor? Either someone that would have guided your thesis research, or just a professor that served to monitor your degree progress and advise on the degree requirements? I would contact this advisor to see if a mistake has been made. If it's not a mistake, then it's up to you whether you want to call it good enough or not. You will likely learn a lot by completing a thesis, and I'm sure they would correct their record and allow you to continue progress on your degree.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by VictoriaF » Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:56 pm

Does your Master's degree require a thesis or a graduate project? If you have not completed the thesis, the conferment of the degree is someone's mistake.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by celia » Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:57 pm

If you don't correct it, they probably won't let you continue taking classes and do a thesis. Won't that experience/ knowledge be helpful for your future career?

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by adamthesmythe » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:00 pm

It's possible they made a mistake. It's possible that you have satisfied the requirements for a course option degree when you thought you were after a project or thesis option.

Start by talking to the department. The university awards degrees when the department tells them to do so (unless the software guys really screwed up).

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by VictoriaF » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:00 pm

celia wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:04 pm
I think that since you're no longer there, it could have been presented posthumously. :D
Or humously, as in "boots on the ground."

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by Chris K Jones » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:01 pm

I would contact the university. If you don't, it will come back to bite you. Thank you for your service and best wishes.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by camillus » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:13 pm

This is called an integrity test.

Yes, it might be nice to save some time and work, but should this come back to bite you, you could be professionally and personally ruined.

The most valuable thing at stake here is your reputation.

There is a chance the university cut a deloyed service person some slack, but it is more likely a mistake. But you need to check :happy

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by TIAX » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:25 pm

celia wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:57 pm
If you don't correct it, they probably won't let you continue taking classes and do a thesis. Won't that experience/ knowledge be helpful for your future career?
Uh, no. The purpose of most graduate degrees is for the resume. I think he can live without having to write a thesis. OP has no duty to approach the University to rescind his degree.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by niceguy7376 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:30 pm

TIAX wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:25 pm
Uh, no. The purpose of most graduate degrees is for the resume. I think he can live without having to write a thesis. OP has no duty to approach the University to rescind his degree.
In that case, how should OP answer any interview question of "what is your educational qualification"?

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by Watty » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:32 pm

PNWAbroad wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:31 am
If there was an error, could the university come back and revoke my degree at some point in the future?
Yes they could.

An additional complication is that at some colleges credits are only good for ten years so if this come up 12 years from now and wanted to take the missing courses you might not get your degree then.

The degree requirements could also change so if you need to complete your degree sometime in the future you might have to complete the degree under the new requirements.

I would get it straightened out with the college and if it does turn out that you should have the degree I would get that in writing(not email) and keep the correspondence verifying that in case it comes up again 20 years from now.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by afan » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:37 pm

Contact your Department. They should know whether you are wrong and you really did complete the program. Granted, this seems unlikely, but it is at least possible you misread the requirements.

If you are correct and have not yet earned the degree, then the Department should be able to clear this up. If I were you, I would start with convenient communication like phone call or email. But I think you will want to prove that you notified them of the error and your intention to return to complete the degree. Presumably they have dropped you from their rolls as a student, since you "have your degree." Once you think you have the answer, if going through the Department gets a prompt response, follow up with a paper letter, registered mail with return receipt laying out your understanding that you have not actually finished the degree. Keep a copy, scanned copy is fine, in case, years later, there are questions about the legitimacy of your credentials.

If you do not get a prompt answer from the Department, contact the university Registrar's office. They keep the official records of what courses you took, any other projects for which you received credit and your status as a student. The Registrar may have to check with the Department, but ultimately you want the Departmental records and the Registrar's records to be consistent with one another and correct.

Get this straightened out, accept your degree if you really have completed it, or return to the correct status and number of earned credits if not.

PLEASE do not put on your CV a degree that you have not completed. You could end up ruining your career.
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by PNWAbroad » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:49 pm

Hi everyone, thanks very much for the quick and helpful replies! This is precisely the sanity check I was hoping for when I approached this forum.

There's a good amount to chew on here, but I think that the two points that resonate with me the most are that 1) approaching my school and confirming my status is the "right" thing to do (however painful it might be if/when they revoke the current degree) and 2) it also happens to be the most pragmatic approach, given the stress of going forward under uncertain circumstances.

So I'll go ahead and contact the academic head of my department to clarify my status. I'll be sure to post an update as soon as I hear back.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by PNWAbroad » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:54 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:56 pm
Does your Master's degree require a thesis or a graduate project? If you have not completed the thesis, the conferment of the degree is someone's mistake.

Victoria
It typically does. There are some alternate programs one can pursue to satisfy the standard thesis/project requirement (none of which I have done) but to my knowledge some form of capstone must be completed.

Which, yes, points to the likelihood that this is in error :(

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by PNWAbroad » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:56 pm

celia wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:04 pm
Do you have a common name? Maybe your records got mixed up with someone else's. Have you checked your transcript?

I think that since you're no longer there, it could have been presented posthumously. :D
My name is pretty unusual so I think it's definitely meant for me. But who knows, perhaps my credits were coupled with those of some long-lost ancestor... :wink:

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by TropikThunder » Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:02 pm

A point I haven’t seen raised is that I don’t know of any college program (undergrad or graduate) that just up and awards a degree and issues a diploma without the degree candidate formally applying for graduation. The fact that this happened absent an application on your part clearly indicates it’s in error and not because your committee wanted to give you a break.

Fortunately you’re ignoring the comments advising you to shut your mouth and keep the degree as if it was a $20 bill you found on the street. Otherwise, if one had any integrity at all, they would spend the rest of their career wondering if someone was going to find out.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by farnsy » Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:06 pm

I think a middle ground would be to contact the university or department and say you want to double check that all requirements for the degree are satisfied. You don't have to tell them that you don't think they are or that you have already received your degree. I'd check with the graduate coordinator for your department, not the registrar.

You don't determine what the requirements for a degree are. Some master's degrees don't require a thesis, some do, with others it is optional. It seems likely that the department and graduate college looked over what you have done and decided it is sufficient. In that case you don't have to push for them to take it back. You are done.

They may find an error, though. That being the case, you should go back and finish. It's not that big of a deal to finish a degree that you had planned to finish anyway.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by heartwood » Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:09 pm

You might check who signed the diploma.

Just tongue in cheek.

I hate to see anyone have to waste time correcting this type of error, but here's a wsj story from August 19.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/nice-degre ... ge=1&pos=1

The 1st paragraphs give you the gist of the story.

"Alec Williams was thrilled to get his diploma this summer after 4½ years at Colorado Mesa University. This month, he spotted one problem: It wasn’t conferred by the school’s board of trustees.

His diploma was signed, the text noted in an Old English font, by the chair of Mesa’s “Coard of Trustees.”"

Similar anecdotes follow, at least one from a prestigious school.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by jminv » Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:11 pm

The first thing to do, before raising it with the university, is to order a copy of your transcript which is usually less than $10. This is normally done online through a 3rd party service such as Parchment. You will then be able to see if you are, in fact, missing anything and what grades you received, if there are incompletes, etc. Then I would decide on what to do re: your moral situation. That way you would be more informed when you are discussing with someone at the school exactly what your are missing, that there are missing courses on your transcript, etc.

It's always possible that you received a social promotion for the last two quarters, ie, have remaining coursework waived or somehow passed, hence why I'd ask for the transcript first. It wouldn't surprise me if there wasn't much content there or it was a paper/seminar type of last two quarters, not a thesis but also if it was an online program aimed at military members. There are sometimes sympathetic people in universities and they would be more likely to exist in a program catering to military members. Believe it or not, people are graduated without meeting all the requirements at times and I know of a couple.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by squirm » Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:31 pm

You'll need to contact the school and verify and reverify.
I have woken up in a sweat a few times in the past from dreams I actually never graduated. Auggg, what a terrible dream. I place high value on my bachelor's in engineering degree and wouldn't ever want that baby taken from me.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by adamthesmythe » Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:24 pm

heartwood wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:09 pm
You might check who signed the diploma.

Just tongue in cheek.

I hate to see anyone have to waste time correcting this type of error, but here's a wsj story from August 19.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/nice-degre ... ge=1&pos=1

The 1st paragraphs give you the gist of the story.

"Alec Williams was thrilled to get his diploma this summer after 4½ years at Colorado Mesa University. This month, he spotted one problem: It wasn’t conferred by the school’s board of trustees.

His diploma was signed, the text noted in an Old English font, by the chair of Mesa’s “Coard of Trustees.”"

Similar anecdotes follow, at least one from a prestigious school.
Interesting. I wonder if these diplomas come with an offer to provide a gold-leaf frame for a modest charge, or a listing in Distinguished Dudes of The West or whatever.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by J295 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:36 pm

Email the school

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by steadyeddy » Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:44 pm

You're acting as though you might lose your degree if you ask about it. I would say that if it's possible for them to take your degree away, then you never had it in the first place. Can you imagine having your "degree" stripped away a decade or two from now?
Last edited by steadyeddy on Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by jackalope » Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:56 pm

OP --

You mentioned that you are considering an additional graduate degree. You will definitely need a clean and consistent transcript when you apply for other graduate programs. They will certainly pick up on any discrepancies.

An employer might request a copy of your transcript particularly if specific courses relates to the job under consideration. If you are applying for a job in finance, as an employer, I would want to know which finance courses you took and how you did in them.

Additionally, a common interview question for graduate students is asking about their thesis.

There are just too many areas which could create future problems for you. You do need to ask and get answers. It may well be that you did qualify for the degree, and so you can then use that understanding in explaining the situation in the future.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by student » Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:59 pm

steadyeddy wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:44 pm
You're acting as though you might lose your degree if you ask about it. I would say that if it's possible
for them to take your degree away, then you never had it in the first place. Can you imagine having your "degree" stripped away a decade or two from now?
It is very rare but a university can revoke a degree, for example, due to cheating. http://archive.boston.com/news/educatio ... legations/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/ ... d18039f1e5 https://www.smh.com.au/education/univer ... hdr7n.html

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by steadyeddy » Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:01 pm

student wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:59 pm
steadyeddy wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:44 pm
You're acting as though you might lose your degree if you ask about it. I would say that if it's possible
for them to take your degree away, then you never had it in the first place. Can you imagine having your "degree" stripped away a decade or two from now?
It is very rare but a university can revoke a degree, for example, due to cheating. http://archive.boston.com/news/educatio ... legations/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/ ... d18039f1e5 https://www.smh.com.au/education/univer ... hdr7n.html
I feel that proves my point.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by PNWAbroad » Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:45 pm

Well everyone, that excitement was short-lived.

I emailed my program's academic director who quickly confirmed that I had not, in fact, met the requirements for graduating and said that he had noticed the error sometime last week and had moved to remedy it - so definitely for the best that I didn't claim the degree and move forward in my career or studies.

I also learned of a few new complications, because I will now be required to reapply to the program (my deployment is longer than I originally anticipated and extends past the normal limits on leaves of absence at the school) which I was assured should be a gimme but may (I'll have to confirm) jeopardize a fellowship I previously enjoyed. These are pretty trivial concerns when compared to the larger ones that would have arisen from not returning to my school and I suspect they'll turn out in my favor in any event.

This all leaves the question of how my degree was conferred and my diploma mailed out in the first place. The director didn't shed any light on this but I have to imagine there will be some interesting conversations in the back office this week. This all at a program that's ranked top-15 nationwide and a university top-20 worldwide so hardly a diploma mill. Oh well, I'll leave that for the folks back home.

At any rate, thanks again to everyone for the replies. Although I'm now less credentialed than when I began the thread I feel more secure in my path forward.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by gclancer » Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:55 pm

TimeRunner wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:41 am
Well, you know what the right thing to do is.

Consider this: You don't say anything and it's on your resume. You've relied on that to progress in your career. You've raised a family, mentored others, and have a reputation as a trusted solid person. Suddenly, for some probably strange and certainly unforeseen reason, you are caught out and consequences ensue. Was it worth it?
Ethics aside this is a serious consideration. At the very least you’ll never be able to run for Congress, be a football coach at a prominent school, or the CEO at a publicly traded tech company if you don’t clear this up. By the time you’ve progressed to that point in your career it’s doubful the two extra quarters will have made much of a difference, but those two quarters will always be lurking in the shadows waiting to bring you down. Tread lightly.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by student » Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:00 pm

steadyeddy wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:01 pm
student wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:59 pm
steadyeddy wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:44 pm
You're acting as though you might lose your degree if you ask about it. I would say that if it's possible
for them to take your degree away, then you never had it in the first place. Can you imagine having your "degree" stripped away a decade or two from now?
It is very rare but a university can revoke a degree, for example, due to cheating. http://archive.boston.com/news/educatio ... legations/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/ ... d18039f1e5 https://www.smh.com.au/education/univer ... hdr7n.html
I feel that proves my point.
I am not sure what your point was. Did you think it is possible or not possible for a degree to be taken away?

student
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by student » Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:10 pm

PNWAbroad wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:45 pm
I also learned of a few new complications, because I will now be required to reapply to the program (my deployment is longer than I originally anticipated and extends past the normal limits on leaves of absence at the school) which I was assured should be a gimme but may (I'll have to confirm) jeopardize a fellowship I previously enjoyed. These are pretty trivial concerns when compared to the larger ones that would have arisen from not returning to my school and I suspect they'll turn out in my favor in any event.
This is very unfortunate. Check to see whether your university has a veteran affairs office; if so, you may want to consult its staff. You were deployed to serve your country, I cannot imagine a reputable place would not work something out for you to have an equivalent fellowship. I can tell you that if I had a graduate student in your situation, and assuming that your original scholarship was given by the university and not from an outside granting agency, I would be talking to the Graduate Dean and the Provost. I am quite confident that our university would have stepped up, and we are a lower tier institution. I would hope that your higher tier institution would step up for you.

ResearchMed
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by ResearchMed » Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:20 pm

PNWAbroad wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:45 pm
Well everyone, that excitement was short-lived.

I emailed my program's academic director who quickly confirmed that I had not, in fact, met the requirements for graduating and said that he had noticed the error sometime last week and had moved to remedy it - so definitely for the best that I didn't claim the degree and move forward in my career or studies.

I also learned of a few new complications, because I will now be required to reapply to the program (my deployment is longer than I originally anticipated and extends past the normal limits on leaves of absence at the school) which I was assured should be a gimme but may (I'll have to confirm) jeopardize a fellowship I previously enjoyed. These are pretty trivial concerns when compared to the larger ones that would have arisen from not returning to my school and I suspect they'll turn out in my favor in any event.

This all leaves the question of how my degree was conferred and my diploma mailed out in the first place. The director didn't shed any light on this but I have to imagine there will be some interesting conversations in the back office this week. This all at a program that's ranked top-15 nationwide and a university top-20 worldwide so hardly a diploma mill. Oh well, I'll leave that for the folks back home.

At any rate, thanks again to everyone for the replies. Although I'm now less credentialed than when I began the thread I feel more secure in my path forward.
At least it is sorted out, and you handled it "the right way", in your own eyes, and in the eyes of your department.

Now... how about adding a note at the VERY top of your first post, preferably in bold, stating that "situation is resolved; diploma was in error", so folks don't keep putting a lot of effort into this.
AND in the title!

This was certainly an interesting tale.
I do wonder *how* it could have happened (and did it happen to others, too?).

RM
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steadyeddy
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by steadyeddy » Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:12 pm

student wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:00 pm
steadyeddy wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:01 pm
student wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:59 pm
steadyeddy wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:44 pm
You're acting as though you might lose your degree if you ask about it. I would say that if it's possible
for them to take your degree away, then you never had it in the first place. Can you imagine having your "degree" stripped away a decade or two from now?
It is very rare but a university can revoke a degree, for example, due to cheating. http://archive.boston.com/news/educatio ... legations/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/ ... d18039f1e5 https://www.smh.com.au/education/univer ... hdr7n.html
I feel that proves my point.
I am not sure what your point was. Did you think it is possible or not possible for a degree to be taken away?
I think that cheating to obtain a degree makes it possible to have it taken away. That is why I wrote that if it possible to have it stripped away, it was never truly earned in the first place. You can possess a stolen car or stolen degree, but both can be taken away if you are found out.

student
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by student » Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:13 pm

steadyeddy wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:12 pm
student wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:00 pm
steadyeddy wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:01 pm
student wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:59 pm
steadyeddy wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:44 pm
You're acting as though you might lose your degree if you ask about it. I would say that if it's possible
for them to take your degree away, then you never had it in the first place. Can you imagine having your "degree" stripped away a decade or two from now?
It is very rare but a university can revoke a degree, for example, due to cheating. http://archive.boston.com/news/educatio ... legations/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/ ... d18039f1e5 https://www.smh.com.au/education/univer ... hdr7n.html
I feel that proves my point.
I am not sure what your point was. Did you think it is possible or not possible for a degree to be taken away?
I think that cheating to obtain a degree makes it possible to have it taken away. That is why I wrote that if it possible to have it stripped away, it was never truly earned in the first place. You can possess a stolen car or stolen degree, but both can be taken away if you are found out.
ok.

stoptothink
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by stoptothink » Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:38 pm

This event is absolutely fascinating to me. I had the exact opposite experience; graduated, moved out of the state for a job and then was contacted 6+ months later, by the individual who did my grad check (a simple formality, which took like 8wks and had a fee associated), stating that they had messed up and I actually did not meet the requirements to graduate. After taking the week off work, paying $500+ to fly back to California and sit down with my former department head, who confirmed in a matter of minutes that I did in fact meet all the requirements, a complaint was filed and ultimately that registrar's office employee was fired. Apparently this was not the first time they had gone back and retroactively decided that they messed up a grad check and were actually wrong.

MnD
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by MnD » Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:51 pm

i got Mononucleosis halfway through my 1 credit outdoor tennis class in college which was every day for last 1/2 of spring semester (to avoid winter). Gave a Dr. note to my instructor - he just said don't come back to the tennis court. I ended up getting an A in class versus a W or incomplete despite missing like the last 50% of court/class time. Same sort of deal here maybe with the deployment.

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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by AlphaLess » Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:52 pm

Contracts usually have errors and emissions clause.
When the error is discovered, the University will pull the diploma.

So the sooner you fix it, the better.
"You can get more with a kind word and a gun than with just a kind word." George Washington

NoHeat
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by NoHeat » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:16 pm

J295 wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:36 pm
Email the school
No, write a letter instead, so that the university responds in kind.

If there is a future dispute regarding the degree’s authenticity, a signed letter on letterhead would carry more authority than an email.

Minty
Posts: 165
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Location: NorCal

Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by Minty » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:38 pm

student wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:10 pm
PNWAbroad wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:45 pm
I also learned of a few new complications, because I will now be required to reapply to the program (my deployment is longer than I originally anticipated and extends past the normal limits on leaves of absence at the school) which I was assured should be a gimme but may (I'll have to confirm) jeopardize a fellowship I previously enjoyed. These are pretty trivial concerns when compared to the larger ones that would have arisen from not returning to my school and I suspect they'll turn out in my favor in any event.
This is very unfortunate. Check to see whether your university has a veteran affairs office; if so, you may want to consult its staff. You were deployed to serve your country, I cannot imagine a reputable place would not work something out for you to have an equivalent fellowship. I can tell you that if I had a graduate student in your situation, and assuming that your original scholarship was given by the university and not from an outside granting agency, I would be talking to the Graduate Dean and the Provost. I am quite confident that our university would have stepped up, and we are a lower tier institution. I would hope that your higher tier institution would step up for you.
I second this advice. As I understand it, you have the right to readmission simply by providing notice under 20 USC 1091c, and 34 CFR 668.18. If I were you, I would start from the position that you are also entitled to the fellowship under the foregoing, or the USERRA. I hope the person you spoke with just wasn't thinking.
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prodigal
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by prodigal » Wed Aug 22, 2018 12:35 am

My experience is outside the US, but in every university I've recently been associated with there are stringent checks, both automated and human, on fulfillment of graduation requirements. Very odd that a situation like yours could happen at a well-regarded institution.

The advice given above by student is good. Did your fellowship involve providing teaching or research assistance? I would communicate with your academic advisor and/or the faculty member who is or will be supervising your thesis. Unless it is a very small program -- and from your description as top-15 nationwide it likely is not -- there's likely to be an alternative fellowship opportunity you could slot into.

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HomerJ
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do? [solved]

Post by HomerJ » Wed Aug 22, 2018 10:42 am

Maybe you invent time travel in the future and a future you came back and finished the classes while you were deployed.
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oldcomputerguy
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Re: Graduate Degree Mistakenly (?) Conferred - What to Do?

Post by oldcomputerguy » Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:46 pm

PNWAbroad wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:45 pm
Well everyone, that excitement was short-lived.

I emailed my program's academic director who quickly confirmed that I had not, in fact, met the requirements for graduating and said that he had noticed the error sometime last week and had moved to remedy it - so definitely for the best that I didn't claim the degree and move forward in my career or studies.
I'm glad it worked out for you. It could have been worse. I was just talking to our local ESGR chapter chair, she mentioned that the local school had had a student who, like you, was deployed while attending, but somehow the school did not get the word of the deployment, so the student earned "F"'s in all his classes due to total unexplained absence in all classes. Fortunately he has an ombudsman here at the school who will be working to get this remedied.
It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’ve come around to this: If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. And if you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.

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