Return to the Latest

With New York’s Transcript Withholding Ban, 1-in-4 Students Across Country Now Protected Against Predatory School Collection Practices

May 17, 2022
Contact: Juan Ramiro Sarmiento
(785) 760-6567 |

With New York’s Transcript Withholding Ban, 1-in-4 Students Across Country Now Protected Against Predatory School Collection Practices

State-level Advocates and Lawmakers Set the Stage for National Policy

(New York, NY) – In light of New York state banning schools from withholding academic transcripts as a means of debt collection last week, the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) released today maps showing a new analysis that 1-in-4 students across the country are protected by law from transcript withholding thanks to state action. Additionally, 1-in-4 degree-granting postsecondary institutions nationwide are banned from denying students access to their academic transcripts based on outstanding debt.

New York joins California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington in taking action against the predatory collection practice. Collectively, these states represent over twenty percent of students and institutions. On May 6, the Illinois General Assembly sent a similar bill to Governor JB Pritzker’s desk for signing. Once signed, a quarter of U.S. students have protections against withholding practices. This growing state-level momentum marks a shift in the national policy landscape for so-called “institutional” student debts—debts owed by a student directly to a school—and the success of advocates and lawmakers working to combat the increasing addition of these debts to the growing student debt crisis.

As these protections begin to reach a critical mass of students, SBPC urges all state and federal policymakers to implement similar measures while also addressing underlying institutional debts more directly.

In response, Sean Henry Miller, Northeast Regional Director for Young Invincibles issued the following statement.

“When working-class, Black, and brown students are too often forced to shoulder serious student debt just for the promise of a living wage, our institutions should support students’ career development, not penalize them for being unable to afford it yet. Withholding transcripts is de facto gatekeeping and our students who have experienced it felt that gate slam right in their face.”

Mike Pierce, Executive Director at Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC)
“States have historically set the agenda in addressing the student debt crisis. We applaud leaders in New York and other states who are leading the way in framing the policy response to institutional debt. As more states prohibit transcript withholding as a debt collection tactic, they are also looking to the future and asking ‘how can we help students with the underlying debt itself?’ Now is the time for education and consumer advocates to come together to get this right.”

Onyekachi Okeke, a senior at Hunter College in New York City.
“Transcript withholding caused me to miss out on applying for jobs and internships that were pertinent to my major and career goals. Going through the hassle of begging the Bursar’s Office to temporarily release my transcript is not worth it… they will tell you the same thing: that I need to pay off the account balance. How can schools proclaim that the welfare of their students are top-priority when this punitive practice demonstrates the complete opposite?”

Carolina Rodriguez, Director of the Education Debt Consumer Assistance Program
“Higher education is still the gateway to economic mobility, and it was time to end the harmful practice of transcript withholding in New York State. Withholding a student’s transcript benefits no one and fails to recognize the challenges students face due to the current cost of higher education. I look forward to seeing the end of this practice nationally.”

When institutions withhold transcripts to collect institutional debts, students—particularly low-income students—are unable to complete their degrees or obtain work in their field of study, both of which are often critical to their ability to repay the debt owed to their school. These debts can be for as little as $25, but one report found that the average amount owed across different institution types was $2,335.39.

(See the full version of the interactive maps here.)