Some colleges stop holding transcripts hostage over unpaid bills

By: | May 13, 2021

Nearly all higher education institutions withhold transcripts from students who have even the smallest of balances, according to the higher education consulting firm Ithaka S+R, which has estimated that about 6.6 million Americans are blocked from obtaining their transcripts or degrees because of unpaid bills.

But some institutions are changing this policy as they recognize the huge impact — and very bad optics — of withholding transcripts, a practice that almost exclusively affects low-income students. Anger over this has only grown at a time when many families are suffering through the financial fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the most significant development, Southern New Hampshire University has now stopped blocking transcripts; it says it is has begun releasing these records to the 2,257 students from whom they were withheld over the last year alone because of unpaid balances that average $728.

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