Chairman Krishnamoorthi Investigates Practice of Withholding Student Transcripts Due to Unpaid Bills
Washington, D.C. (October 6, 2021)— Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, sent letters to seven state higher education authorities in five states requesting documents and information concerning the practice of withholding transcripts from students who have unpaid bills.
“I am concerned that institutions of higher education are holding transcripts hostage to collect amounts as low as $25,” Chairman Krishnamoorthi said. “This practice makes it harder for students to complete their degrees when they change schools, and it disproportionately affects low-income and minority populations, exacerbating racial and socioeconomic inequities in our country’s higher-education system. Roughly 6.6 million students have ‘stranded credits’ due to this harmful practice.”
Without their transcripts, students cannot apply course credits they have already earned to a degree at another institution, or use these documents to help them obtain a job. As a result, some students end up saddled with debt, and without a college degree or a job that will help them pay off that debt.
Unfortunately, withholding transcripts is a common practice. In a 2016 survey conducted by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, 98% of respondents said that they withhold transcripts from students to collect debts. When the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) conducted a similar survey in 2020, 95% of respondents admitted they withheld transcripts for “one or more reasons.” Shockingly, 64% of respondents in the AACRAO survey said they withheld transcripts even if students owed under $25.
In response to mounting criticism, some institutions have abandoned the practice of holding transcripts hostage. California recently passed legislation banning public and private schools from withholding student transcripts due to unpaid debts, but students in most states are not protected.
Chairman Krishnamoorthi requested documents and information on all transcripts withheld, and all policies and practices governing transcript withholding, across five states.
Click here to read the letter to the Michigan State Board of Education.
Click here to read the letter to the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
Click here to read the letter to the Pennsylvania State Department of Education.
Click here to read the letter to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
Click here to read the letter to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
Click here to read the letter to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Click here to read the letter to the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges.