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How New York students and advocates are leading the fight to end transcript withholding

Every year, thousands of New York’s college students get caught in the “transcript trap” — where students are prevented from accessing their academic records because of a past debt owed to their college. Without access to their official transcript, students are not only unable to reenroll or transfer to another college — their credit is ruined, their total debt load increases due to collection fees and interest, and they may even be sued.

This year, YI-New York worked with advocates across the state and the country to end transcript withholding for New York’s student borrowers. With our partners at the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC), we held a virtual convening on how state lawmakers can take action in Albany to protect New York’s student borrowers. Shortly after, lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly introduced legislation that would prohibit colleges in New York from blocking students’ access to their own transcripts.

As debate over the legislation continued in Albany, we worked with students and advocates to show the real harm transcript withholding places on borrowers. Our Organizing Fellow Lisa Nishimura, a recent John Jay graduate, shared their experience of getting their transcript withheld after graduation. Melanie Kruvelis, our Senior Manager of Policy and Advocacy, also spoke with New York Public News Network and the Hechinger Report about the nationwide push to end the transcript trap. Our team also worked to collect stories from students impacted by transcript withholding across New York.

We also continue to research the impact transcript withholding has on students across New York, and the fight for an equitable higher education system. With our partners at SBPC and the Community Service Society of New York, we published new research, which found that students living in majority Black or Latino neighborhoods were eight to 10 times more likely to have their transcripts withheld than students living in other neighborhoods. You can view our findings here.

Ready to join the fight to end predatory debt collection practices like transcript withholding? Sign our action alert today, and share your story to join the campaign.