October 25, 2023
A federal policy change could give thousands of students access to transcripts and academic credits their colleges have withheld because they owed the institutions money. The new rule, part of a broad package of regulations the U.S. Education Department unveiled Tuesday, could amount to a national ban on the practice of transcript withholding, experts say.
Institutions sometimes withhold transcripts to force a student to pay a balance on their account. Without their transcripts, students often can’t continue their education elsewhere without starting over, and they cannot apply for certain jobs. The practice has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, with dozens of states enacting their own bans.
The department’s new rule is broader than what the agency proposed in May and would prevent a college or university from withholding a student’s transcript for terms in which a student received federal financial aid and paid off the balance for the term. Research from Ithaka S+R, a research and consulting group, has shown that about six million students have what are called stranded credits because of transcript withholding.