A federal policy change could give millions 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 in 2023, could amount to a national ban on the practice of transcript withholding, experts say.

Institutions sometimes withhold transcripts to force students to pay balances on their accounts. 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.

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The Hechinger Report

Misguided payment policies fuel
the college-dropout trap

“When colleges prioritize their financial interests over their public mission, everyone loses.”

Students who have outstanding balances that prevent them from finishing college are often short just a few dollars and a couple of credits.

Even unpaid library fines and balances on campus cards can trigger a windfall of consequences that push thousands of students into debt and degree-less purgatory every year.

Read more in The Hechinger Report

Our Partners

Leveraging Behavioral Science to Help Families Build Savings

In the first student-level study of transcript holds, AACRAO found that 370,754 different holds affected 126,500 students in just two academic years. At these 14 institutions alone, 558 hold codes were in use. And more than half of holds were placed by someone other than the bursar, registrar, or financial aid office. These findings show that institutions must change.

Re-Envisioning Transfer

Ohio College Comeback removes barriers to re-enrollment

The Ohio College Comeback has a new approach to resolving students’ unpaid balances, providing new financial and advising support (including pathways for transfer), and addressing institutions’ own financial interest . Ithaka is currently recruiting new sites for similar programs so please get in touch if you’re a state, system, or institutional consortium.

Ohio College Comeback Compact

Bachelor's Attainment Team

Lumina’s BA team is working with colleges and universities will help at least 1 million more adults earn bachelor’s degrees than would be awarded based on current estimates.