The most expensive paper (That I didn’t own)

Last night I opened up my mailbox app and saw an email with the subject line “RE: Diploma Hold”. I opened it, of course. Read it. Then laughed and shook my head. Let’s rewind:
I graduated from college two years ago. I didn’t have a job lined up; I didn’t know what field I wanted to get into; I didn’t have a career lined up. During school I worked an average of 2-3 part-time jobs and did a couple of internships. I was struggling, hard, but I managed to get by. After walking the stage I still had a few courses to take to fulfill my degree unit requirements. So I was stressing about that. I also had no idea where I would or could apply to for a fulltime job. Number 2 of my stress. Then talk about bills piling up. It took me a little longer than 5 months to secure a job; which caused me to fall behind on a lot of my bills, including some student loans. It really became the decision between eating and paying a loan during some months. In the meantime I was still working retail, part-time, with terrible hours. After securing a better part-time job I quick my retail job and started to sign up for the last few units I needed to complete my degree. The only reason why I couldn’t start fulltime at my new job was because I didn’t technically have a 4-year degree yet. Thankfully, they let me work part-time and while I was taking courses online.
There I was a few months later. It’s taking much longer than I anticipated completing the courses, but I’m done! Finally! I submit my last assignment and finally felt accomplished again. I waited a few weeks, then a couple of months and I still haven’t seen my diploma. Then I email the registrar’s office. They emailed me back to tell me there seemed to be a hold on my account. They said I could log into my account and check out what the hold was. I do so. It was something along the lines of finances and gave me a number to call if I wished to do so.
Long story short after receiving that email last night after them telling me already why I couldn’t receive my diploma, I felt dispirited. I was literally living the expression “you’re paying for a piece of paper”. After putting in the hours, tears(literally), and work all those years. My diploma, which I earned, is being held hostage because to the university the small amount owed is much more important than rewarding my accomplishment. It’s disheartening. I tell my nephews and nieces often that college may not work out for everyone but give it a chance. Invest into your education because no one can take that away. Yet there I was, reading an email that made me sick to my stomach. That may sound a bit dramatic but seriously. As students(former students) we work and struggle to get this piece of paper that tells people that we are smart enough to work for (insert company). Then when we fall on hard times, institutions such as universities tell us that we can’t have that PIECE OF PAPER because they need more money.

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