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I started a new graduate program in September. After a few weeks weeks, I chose to withdraw due to personal/health concerns.

One of the reasons I accepted the offer of admission was because it included a scholarship that covered tuition. After I withdrew, they took away the scholarship (expected) but they also charged me tuition for the first semester (unexpected). They did this because, technically, I withdrew a few days after the "last day to drop classes without financial penalty" deadline.

I am no longer a student, but they are still requiring me to pay ~$1500 to cover the tuition. I can't afford to pay this; I was not expecting this additional expense since the scholarship was supposed to cover it. If I don't pay it right away, they will charge interest.

Now the easiest option (but perhaps unethical) seems to be to just walk away without paying. But if I want to apply for another graduate program some time in the future, I will need a transcript from all past institutions. And if I want a transcript from this institution, they need me to pay the ~$1500.

This seems ridiculous; effectively, it will cost $1500 to get a transcript that does not contain any grades. It just says that I withdrew from all classes.

Would a graduate program generally require a transcript that does not contain any grades? Alternatively, is there any precedent for a situation where a scholarship is revoked but tuition is still required after withdrawing?

For context, this is a major Canadian university.

Update: Thanks for the responses. After reaching out to the department and explaining the situation, it was determined that financial services had made an error when they revoked the scholarship. Basically, the scholarship acted like a tuition waiver and it was not correct to cancel the tuition waiver (and thereby charge full tuition) when a student withdraws.

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    Sorry to say, but you did withdraw after the deadline. You may view this as a technicality, but the university sees it differently. – Jon Custer Oct 22 '18 at 18:56
  • I remembered seeing a related question on here. I think it was Is omitting a school with blank transcript considered unethical in academia?, but that's concerned with withdrawing before the deadline. That technicality may indeed be important . – Anyon Oct 22 '18 at 19:02
  • "Alternatively, is there any precedent for a situation where a scholarship is revoked but tuition is still required after withdrawing?" I think all of them? You owe tuition, and luckily you got a scholarship, but why would the scholarship pay out for you to not take classes? Most scholarships I know of require you to maintain some minimal enrollment. – Azor Ahai Oct 22 '18 at 20:05
  • They could require it. Probably they ask for all prior transcripts. But the only way to know is to read the application materials carefully. If one is required but won't be sent you will have to explain why. Your explanation may be acceptable or not, but that depends on the individual situation. Just be honest. If it becomes a block, then you will need to deal with it directly. – Buffy Oct 22 '18 at 20:30
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    @BryanKrause "might not look good to another university" I cannot speak about other universities, but if I ever received an application from a student that I came to find out owed $1500 in tuition to another university, it would likely mean the application gets thrown in the fireplace. – Vladhagen Oct 22 '18 at 20:51
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There are two issues at play here:

  1. You received (or had opportunity to receive) goods or services at a cost and now you do not feel you should pay for said services.

  2. You have asked if a graduate program would require a transcript from a school you attended but received no grades from.

My answer to these questions would be as follows:

  1. If you did not withdraw from the university before the withdraw deadline, you indeed owe them tuition. This is how tuition works. You receive services from the university and you pay them for said services. Failure to attend class does not remit one's tuition obligations. That is the precedent. In essence, laborers came to your house and painted your living room. Originally you had agreed for them to paint your entire house, but you decided you no longer wanted the whole house painted. Do you still owe the painting company money for painting your living room? (Answer: Yes).

    There may be several paths you can take in regards to the tuition charges. You can set up a payment plan with the university. This will allow you to pay back the tuition over time while also avoiding your credit being destroyed by your account being sent to a collections agency. Another approach you could attempt is to speak with the university and seek to have your tuition charges dropped because you could not attend class. Be prepared to prove that claim (if true). This would be a path you could take if you were hospitalized for the extent of the semester and you were incapacitated to a degree that rendered you unable to take the appropriate administrative actions and withdraw earlier. The university is extremely unlikely to remit tuition charged to a student who had claimed, yet unprovable, difficulties in attending class.

  2. As for whether you need to provide transcripts for a university you never received any grades at, I would guess that it is rather unlikely that an admissions committee would require your transcripts if you sought prior direction from them on the matter. Simply email the graduate coordinator and say

    "I attended the University of ABC123 during September 2018. Due to health issues, I withdrew from all of my classes before final grades were issued. As such, any transcript from U of ABC123 will be effectively blank and will not contain any grades. Will the admissions committee still be looking for this transcript?"

    If I received an email like this from a student I would probably reply and tell him or her that we would place a note in his/her file mentioning the situation and that they should not worry about sending a transcript. (Although, if I knew that the student owed another university $1500 of tuition, he could send us whatever he wanted and I would probably still reject his application. There would be no way that I would go dancing with that type of baggage).

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I'll limit my answer to the first question only.

Would a graduate program generally require a transcript that does not contain any grades?

Applications to the graduate programs at my university are processed centrally through the Graduate School, which I direct. We require all applications to be accompanied by official transcripts from previous institutions. In the normal course of affairs, we would require the same of you, especially in the situation in which you have claimed attendance (or at least acceptance) into a graduate program.

Of course, you might simply omit the claim that you were accepted into the program and we would be none the wiser. However, I think that this would be unwise. This is because you claim not only to have been accepted into a "major Canadian university", but also to have received a scholarship. This is quite an achievement by any metric. That you withdrew from the program on non-academic grounds does not diminish this accomplishment. Certainly, an application to our programs with such evidence makes your case quite compelling.

The transcript you will receive from the previous university will not be blank. There will be a note attached that you withdrew from the program on such a date. It will generally list the courses you were supposed to take and have corresponding notations that you were registered from them and were withdrawn, too. Finally, if your scholarship was merit-based and administered by the university, your transcript will also show evidence that you received a scholarship. This is part of the evidence that we would be assessing in support of your claim.

Good luck.

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A lot of this question comes down to what you can do vs. what you should do.

You should pay the university, at least in installments over time. If you withdrew after the deadline to do so, then the university and teachers expended effort to put you into their system, and prepare for you to be a student. If you try to just blow them off, they could pretty easily take you to court and force you to pay, since you likely agreed to a set of terms and conditions upon signing up for classes. At the least, they could mess up your credit by giving you a delinquent account.

That said, graduate programs would want records from every institution you attended in general. The idea is that it is up to them to decide what is important and what is not, not up to you. Thus, it is academically dishonest to withhold the information from them. Further, the transcript likely is not blank. It will list the classes that you signed up for, and give you a "W" in each one most likely (that is what US institutions do), since you dropped after the deadline. Some schools count those against your GPA, some don't, so it could affect how they calculate your GPA coming into their program.

So that's what you should do. Could you not include the transcript? Yes, it is possible that they would fail to notice the missing transcript. It is also possible that you'd make it 1/2 way through the program, and then they'd figure it out, and you could get thrown out.

I'd talk to the university about setting up a payment plan so that they don't tank your credit or go to a collections agency, then include the transcript. $1500 isn't worth the danger that someone will find out and throw you out years later. As for precedent, I had a similar situation where I had to withdraw from a semester after the deadline because my sister became very ill, and I had to be an at-home caretaker. The university didn't refund me anything. From their perspective, they had reserved spots in the classes I was taking, and they couldn't let anyone else into those spots because the course was too far along. I was forced to eat that cost, and formed a payment plan with the university business office.

  • Also, if it is a public school, they may have expanded powers to retrieving their funds vs. a private college. – Azor Ahai Oct 22 '18 at 20:39

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