VA Bill Would Ban Withholding Student Transcripts for Debt Collection
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
As the Virginia General Assembly begins its new legislative session, one bill will be returning - with the goal of alleviating some student-debt burdens.
It would prevent a college from withholding a student's transcripts if they still owe the school money. People need their transcripts to get financial aid, serve in the U.S. military, apply to another school or sometimes, to get a job.
Several states have already banned schools withholding student transcripts - and this isn't the first time it's come up in Virginia. In 2022, a bill passed the Senate, but failed in the House.
State Senator Ghazala Hashmi - D-Richmond - drafted it, and described the change in the new version.
"What is changing in this particular bill now," said Hashmi, "is that it is putting in place the payment plan, that institutions can put in repayment agreements with the student."
She added that the bill will include a compromise, to allow students to have access to a partial transcript should they transfer schools.
Much of the opposition has come from colleges and universities, saying the only leverage they have to pursue college debt is by withholding transcripts. But backers of the idea say the schools can't recoup those debts if people don't have the chance to get jobs.
Though this year's legislative session will be truncated due to elections, Hashmi said she is hopeful to see other work done on higher education.
She said she feels the state needs to lift the burden of rising tuition costs off middle-class families, and budget more for higher ed. She said a combination of her own experience working in higher ed inspired her to introduce this bill.
"I worked in the community college system," said Hashmi. "I had students who said, 'Well, I've completed x, y and z courses, but I don't have the transcripts to demonstrate it.' So, they are forced to take those classes again. What happens then is, of course, it's a hit on their financial aid, the federal financial aid."
Hashmi said she feels the updated bill will address issues that prevented its passage the first time around.
A report from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia finds withholding transcripts for debt resolution can be harmful to students looking to pay down their debt.
Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.
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