CUNY reverses its policy on withholding transcripts over unpaid bills

By: | August 19, 2021

The City University of New York announced that it would temporarily stop withholding transcripts from students with unpaid bills, reversing a long-held policy that prevented thousands from transferring between schools or entering the careers of their choice. In the announcement, which linked to The Hechinger Report’s coverage, Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez described the decision as “the most pragmatic and compassionate way forward in this challenging climate.”

CUNY students were among the millions across the country hit hard by the pandemic and left struggling to finance their education. But the problem of transcript withholding long predates Covid, as Hechinger’s Jon Marcus found when he began investigating this issue as part of our Hidden Debt Trap project. He’s spent months reporting on what critics refer to as the “transcript trap,” when colleges and universities refuse to release transcripts for students who owe them money. Nationwide, an estimated 6.6 million students are unable to receive their transcripts because they have unpaid bills, some for as little as $25.

Some of these students have graduated, but without their transcript, they can’t prove that they have earned a degree and are qualified for a well-paying job. Others are seeking to transfer to a new college – for example, from a community college to a four-year university. Without their transcripts, none of their credits transfer and they have to start again.

Read more from The Hechinger Report.

Scroll down for more from UB