I just graduated last semester and I just received a bill from my college claiming $125 in "room damages". I contacted the office of res life about it and they claimed that I "turned in the wrong key" and so they needed to replace the lock. Their claim is blatantly false as I did turn in the key that I was given. I emailed back and forth with the office pointing out it doesn't even make sense where I could have gotten the "wrong key" from. They basically dug their heels in and said they are not going to drop the charge as they have already replaced the lock.

My question is are there serious consequences to ignoring the charge as I have already graduated?

Should I just relent and pay the fee? I called the business office directly and they said they would only drop the charge with the approval of res life.

  • 7
    Presumably the same consequences as not paying any other fine/fee. Impact on credit score, taking you to court for breach of contract, collection agencies chasing you, etc. They could prevent you graduating, but you said that you have already graduated. What they will do is up to the university. It may be worth looking into an appeals process if you believe they are wrong.
    – atom44
    Jun 23 at 11:17
  • 5
    Do you happen to have a proof that "Their claim is blatantly false"?
    – sleepy
    Jun 23 at 11:27
  • 34
    @sleepy Maybe the question to ask here is "do they have a proof that you turned in the wrong key". Jun 23 at 12:15
  • 12
    The locality is quite important here. In many places, the locks must be rekeyed after the previous occupant moves out, because even if they returned the official key you have no way of knowing how many copies they had. In such a case the rekeying is a normal expense to the property owner and cannot be blamed on the occupant.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jun 23 at 20:18
  • 15
    University key offices are notoriously insane. When I left grad school, I tried to turn in my building key. The idiot in the key office took the key, checked his records and then gave it back to me and told me that I didn't have that key, so I couldn't get my $10 back. "But I'm holding this key in my hand." "All I know is what's on this card, and it says you already turned it in." This was a key to the outside door. So I gave it to a homeless guy. For $10, they could have avoided a lot of trouble.
    – B. Goddard
    Jun 23 at 21:44

Should I just relent and pay the fee?

At least from US perspective, you may need a transcript or other official correspondence from your university at some point. Therefore, resolving the problem is probably in your best interest.

If you fight long enough and hard enough, the university will likely eventually relent and remove the charge. You might need to escalate the issue to multiple deans, pressure the university on social media, contact members of the press, or even file your own lawsuit against the university.

So then the real question becomes, is all that effort and time worth it? Imagine such a process taking you 20 hours. Is your time worth more than $6.25 an hour? It might even take much longer. Sometimes the principle of the issue has intrinsic value. Enter this into your calculation.

If it were me, I'd just pay to make the problem go away.

  • 12
    I don't understand why the press would be interested in this story. Jun 23 at 18:46
  • 21
    @MaartenBuis Perhaps the school newspaper would be interested in a story about the administration recklessly/unfairly applying fees to students. Perhaps it's part of a larger trend? Maybe the school is publicly funded. Perhaps you'd prefer your tax revenue was not used to unfairly charge students that may be economically disadvantaged.
    – Ian
    Jun 23 at 18:47
  • 8
    I would pay considerably more than $125 to defend myself against a false claim on principle and to dissuade (even by a little bit) the university from trying similar shenanigans down the line. Not everyone is so able or inclined, but just my two cents. Jun 24 at 6:17
  • 4
    @Barmar We always ask for transcripts when hiring anyone less than 3 years out of school. Surely not everywhere does this, but if OP is job hunting there's a strong probability that someone will ask for it.
    – J...
    Jun 24 at 14:21
  • 5
    Hey Ian, you owe me $500. Stopping me from claiming this will take you at least 100 hours as I won't stop claiming this. Is your time worth more than $5 an hour? I guess so, so where do I give you my bank account?
    – DonQuiKong
    Jun 25 at 17:11

Some colleges won't send out official transcripts (to employers and such) unless all fees have been paid.

You might get "sued" in small claims court in some jurisdictions, which makes it a legal matter.

Neither of the above is necessarily going to happen.

  • 5
    Study fee is also different from rooming fee, they may have different penalty cascades. Jun 23 at 12:15

In the U.S. there are laws controlling debt collection. If an amount is in dispute, the collector can't start "collection activities". I don't know exactly what activities this covers and it probably varies by state, but withholding transcripts might fall under "unfair collection practices." I found this article:


which says that California has prohibited the practice.


Due to the restricted/controlled number of "blank" degree that can be printed on each year, the last degree I obtained can only be issued around June (the printing is controlled by the government I guess, on each degree there's a code so that anyone who wants to verify it can go to a site to check the number, no notary of any kind is needed for the photocopies). So if you graduate in September for example, you can have ceremonies, parties, etc. but you'll have to wait until next June to receive the "real" diploma (in the meantime the school will give you a certificate).

In my college before that (in another country), the degree could be given on the spot, just a day or two after my defense, but I needed to turn in a form signed by all relevant offices (library, admin, accountant, etc.) showing that there were no unresolved debt or issue with them.

For the amount you mention in your question I think they won't press charge or escalate it to the legal department, but think about situations when you still need official documents from the school.

  • 13
    Your first sentence seems very country-specific; most parts of the world have no such limit.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jun 23 at 20:15
  • @BenVoigt so what? I don't understand the point. The situation of the OP is also very country-specific, even "state-specific". Those who answer cannot know his country's, his school's procedure after graduation. So one can only share his (rather subjective) assessment of the possible consequences, based on his (again, subjective) experience so that the OP can "prepare for the worst", just like his question. (PS a downvote only shows a toxic behavior from that downvoter).
    – Jim Raynor
    Jul 7 at 12:47

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