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‘Perpetual student’ scraps college graduation

/ Source: The Associated Press

Despite his 12 years as an undergraduate student, Johnny Lechner realized something was missing from his academic record: he’d never studied abroad.

And so, the 29-year-old known as the "perpetual student," who had been expected to finally graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, withdrew his application for graduation Monday, five days before commencement.

“I realized that if I went one more year, I could study abroad,” Lechner said. “That’s one thing I haven’t done.”

Lechner’s extended academic career has made him a celebrity of sorts. His never-ending student life has been featured in newspapers and on network television shows, not to mention campus publications across the nation.

By this spring he had completed 234 college credits, or about 100 more than needed to graduate, and was taking seven more.

That qualified him for the so-called “slacker tax,” instituted this school year by the UW Board of Regents to help cover the state subsidy for students who stay long past the usual four of five years to earn an undergraduate degree.

It calls for students who exceed 165 total credit hours or 30 more than their degree programs require — whichever is higher — to pay double tuition.

Lechner said he didn’t start out to be a long-term student, but it just developed once he realized how much fun he was having at college.

Had he graduated, he would have earned a liberal studies degree in education, communications, theater, health and women’s studies.

Michelle Eigenberger, an editor at The Royal Purple, said Lechner may have achieved celebrity status, but most students are tired of it.

“It’s getting old,” she said. “For the sanity of the rest of the campus, we want him to get out of here.”