Here Are the States That Ban Colleges From Withholding Transcripts

Approximately 25% of college students will soon study in a state with a ban on transcript withholding, according to the Student Borrower Protection Center.
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  • New York is the latest state to ban transcript withholding.
  • Many individual institutions have also stopped the practice in recent months.
  • However, in most of the U.S., colleges and universities may still withhold transcripts.

More and more states with large college student populations are passing bills banning schools from withholding transcripts due to debts.

New York is the latest state to enact a bill forbidding the practice. It joins California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington with such laws. Illinois, meanwhile, passed a similar bill this month that is on the governor's desk.

Right now, 1 in 5 students across the U.S. studies in a state that offers protection from transcript withholding, according to an analysis from the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC).

Once the Illinois bill is signed, that ratio will shrink to 1 in 4 students.

"States have historically set the agenda in addressing the student debt crisis. We applaud leaders in New York and other states who are leading the way in framing the policy response to institutional debt," Mike Pierce, executive director at SBPC, said in a statement. "As more states prohibit transcript withholding as a debt collection tactic, they are also looking to the future and asking 'How can we help students with the underlying debt itself?' Now is the time for education and consumer advocates to come together to get this right."

Most schools that utilize transcript withholding do so when a student owes any debt to the institution. A 2020 report from research group Ithaka S+R estimates about 6.6 million current and former students, many of them adults who stopped out, owed as much as $15 billion as of 2018. The average unpaid balance was $2,300.

Without their transcripts, many students aren't able to transfer to different schools or graduate from their college. This leads to what some call "stranded credits."

The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers reported that 95% of colleges withhold transcripts as of last year.

The SBPC counts seven states where legislatures have introduced bills that would ban the practice of transcript withholding at public universities:

  • Louisiana
  • Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Ohio
  • New Jersey
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts

There has been no legislative action to ban transcript withholding nationally. However, the U.S. Education Department recently proposed regulatory language that would deny a school's ability to withhold transcripts in limited circumstances.

Some student advocates expressed disappointment that the department's proposal wasn't broader.