Error on an alum's diploma could cost her $20 to replace

When CMU alum Courtney Tornga picked up her cap and gown and got in touch with the Undergraduate Academic Services office in preparation for her graduation in May, she discovered a mistake on her diploma and final transcript.

At the beginning of Tornga’s last semester at CMU, the Grand Rapids native's cumulative grade point average was 3.89, giving her an honors designation of Magna Cum Laude, she said. At the end of her last semester, her grade point average rose to 3.91, giving her Summa Cum Laude status.

According to the undergraduate bulletin issued by CMU to all students, the honors designations of graduating students are determined by their total cumulative grade point averages prior to the beginning of their last required semesters.

“My diploma, as well as my final transcripts do not reflect that designation,” Tornga said.

CMU Registrar Karen Hutslar said a student’s honors designation is determined by a student’s grade point average at the start of his or her final term, and that is what is printed on the diplomas.

“It is not that diplomas are printed early,” Hutslar said. “That is the only GPA we can go with because grades are never due until the week after commencement.”

Tornga said she did not want to suggest that student graduations should be delayed until their final grades are known.

“I understand the time dilemma that the university faces,” she said. “Although it’s unfortunate for the students on the ‘bubble’ like myself, I really do not have a proposal to rectify the incorrect designation assigned at the time of graduation.”

The undergraduate bulletin explains an appeal process for students who are graduating with higher honors than they had at the beginning of their final semester. These students must fill out a graduation honors appeal form, a diploma replacement form and pay a $20 service fee.

If students wish to go through the honors appeal process, they must submit the forms and the fee by the Friday before the next commencement following their graduation.

The graduation honors appeal form is not available online, but can be picked up in Warriner Hall 123. The diploma replacement form is available in the student forms section of the Registrar’s office website.

Hutslar said approximately 30 students per year receive new diplomas via the honors appeal.

Tornga said she spoke with Hutslar, who informed her of the honors appeal process. Tornga has not completed the appeal at this time.

She said she is frustrated that she would be required to pay the $20 service fee for a new diploma, despite all the time and money she spent in order to graduate from CMU.

Hutslar said normally students are required to pay if they need a replacement diploma, but exceptions can be made if a diploma is damaged in the mail, or if it is damaged because of a natural disaster.

Tornga said she is also unsatisfied because if she did get a replacement, it would be indicated in an unobtrusive area on the diploma that it had been re-issued.

Tornga said students’ diplomas and final transcripts should reflect their academic histories in their entirety.

“I did not lose my diploma, change my name, or provide incorrect information to the university,” she said. “I just want an original diploma issued by the university that accurately reflects the degree and honors designation that I finally achieved.”


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