Colleges shouldn’t have the power to withhold student transcripts over an unpaid balance

Tania Ortiz, Opinion Editor

As we are aware, the price of higher education is high, causing students to scramble for any kind of financial aid that they can get. They sometimes resort to student loans that pile up with interest. But even after working relentlessly to earn a degree and pay off any fees, another problem makes the student debt crisis worse.

This involves universities having the power to hold onto student’s transcripts, and sometimes degrees, because of an unpaid balance. What is even more frustrating is that it does not matter how small or big the balance is. A student can owe ten dollars for a random fee and have their transcript held from them.

Many students face this problem when they find themselves unable to pay for their education due to financial aid not being sufficient or unable to find someone to cosign loans. This often leads to students having to withdraw from universities and transfer to a less expensive school.

Here is where things get harder for students.

As students go through transferring to another school, they have to obtain the transcript of their previous university to know what classes to enroll in. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to get one due to the unpaid balances. Nationwide, 6.6 million college students can’t obtain their transcripts from universities for having outstanding balances as low as $25.

 Most universities do not allow students to register for classes if they have failed to pay any costs that were not covered by financial aid. According to Mike Reilly, executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions, most times that unpaid balance is from the most recent semester.

Universities shouldn’t have the power to hold students’ transcripts hostage when they have an outstanding balance for just one semester. Schools should at least allow students to receive an official transcript up to the last paid semester.

 Students have the right to obtain their transcripts because they were the ones that worked relentlessly for the grades. To work hard and not be able to get a hold of those grades is wrong.

 Colleges holding students’ transcripts creates a roadblock for them as they try to continue pursuing higher education. Students often have to start from the beginning and retake classes they have already passed at their previous college. This can eventually discourage students from continuing to pursue a degree due to the thought of starting over.

To makes matters worse, this choice taken by universities can technically be considered legal. Depending on the university, unfortunately, they can decide what actions to take regarding student transcripts. Therefore, if they feel that it is necessary to hold transcripts until the balance is paid, they can do so.

Luckily, some states, like California, have passed laws prohibiting colleges from withholding transcripts as debt collection, which is a step in the right direction. This provides some relief to students who have outstanding balances from California universities. But up until the AB-1313 bill passed, schools in California still had that power. The problem lies for students who transfer from out of state colleges to California, who have an outstanding balance.

Colleges shouldn’t control students’ transcripts due to an unpaid balance; instead, schools should allow students to obtain their transcripts and provide resources that help them pay their balance.

Tania Ortiz is the Opinion Editor for The Cougar Chronicle. She is a senior at CSUSM as a communication major. Tania plans to pursue a job in the media industry after graduation. In her free time, she enjoys reading, going on runs and spending time with friends.