N.Y. Enacts Law Banning Colleges From Withholding Transcripts Until Debts are Paid

The Governor of New York has signed a bill into law that prohibits colleges and universities from withholding transcripts from individuals who owe the schools money, a practice that has been described as “transcript ransoming.”

S.5924C/A.6938 goes into effect 30 days after it was signed by the governor.

Nationwide, nearly 7 million students were unable to obtain copies of their transcripts because they owed the schools money, for tuition or other expenses.

“Transcripts are critical for students to continue pursuing their educational and career goals,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “To hold transcripts hostage until outstanding debts are paid is an unfair, predatory practice that prevents our students from reaching their full potential.

“Today, we put an end to this abhorrent policy for all higher education institutions to ensure a level playing field for New York’s students.”

Withholding transcripts until debts are paid is a tactic used by colleges and universities to make sure students pay all of their debts. But the irony of the situation is that withholding transcripts can keep individuals from getting jobs which would allow them to repay the debts in question.

“Transcripts are a record of a students’ education — they are not and were never meant to be tools for debt collection,’ said state Sen. Kevin Thomas, who sponsored the legislation.  

The legislation points out that prohibiting schools from withholding transcripts “does not prevent schools from collecting on past-due debts. Instead it simply removes an ineffective and counter- productive barrier to students’ ability to successfully repay that debt.”

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