NY Colleges Must Release Transcripts, New Law Says

New York state Capitol (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

NEW YORK – Colleges in New York State can no longer withhold students’ transcript information until they pay their debt, according to a new law signed by Governor Kathy Hochul Wednesday.

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

This follows two laws passed earlier this year prohibiting CUNY and SUNY schools from doing so. CUNY already had instituted a temporary freeze on such actions in August of 2021.

These legislations are latest in a nationwide push to eliminate the practice. In December of 2021, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in an address: “To emerge from the pandemic even stronger, institutional leaders must embrace long-term change. That means evaluating longstanding institutional policies that block retention and completion for our most underserved students, such as enrollment and transcript holds for students with unpaid balances.”

In the same month, the American Council on Education, a major lobbying group representing colleges nationwide, together with other groups, issued a statement – “Institutions should remove unnecessary obstacles that prevent students from accessing their transcripts. Withholding transcripts to collect on such things as relatively small unpaid bills and other institutional charges owed by a student puts students in a bind—unable to obtain a transcript to allow them to continue their progress toward a degree or get a job that would allow them to pay off these debts.”

With the passing of this legislation, New York joins several other states which have similar bans on such withholdings, including California, Colorado, Maine, Illinois, Washington, and Louisiana. Ohio and Minnesota have bills pending that proposed the change as well.

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