CUNY stops withholding transcripts from students and graduates with debt


Agata Poniatowski | The Ticker

Amanda Salazar, Editor-in-Chief

New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Jan. 31 that CUNY and SUNY colleges will have to end the practice of punitive debt collecting from students and graduates, meaning they will no longer be allowed to withhold transcripts because of unpaid tuition and fees.

“Students work hard throughout the duration of their education and holding their transcripts hostage for payment is a barbaric practice that we must end across the board,” Hochul wrote in a press release. “New Yorkers and those who come to attend school in our state, alike, will not be able to move forward successfully if they are facing financial challenges that prevent them access to opportunity. I commend CUNY for ending this practice and look forward to continuing to work so that every student in New York can be free from transcript withholding.”

Previously, colleges weren’t allowing students and alumni to receive copies of their official transcripts until they paid off all the debt.

It is considered “punitive debt collection” because it punishes the student for their debts by withholding from them a document that is needed for some jobs, internship and graduate school applications, as well as for record keeping.

The inability to obtain a copy of their transcript has also prevented some students from receiving their diploma or being able to start classes in graduate programs.

CUNY had already temporarily stopped the practice in August 2021, but the CUNY Board of Trustees voted on Jan. 31 to make that suspension permanent.

This follows Hochul’s proposal in her 2022 State of the State address to end the practice. SUNY also announced that it was ending punitive transcript withholding prior to the CUNY announcement.

“This compassionate action reinforces the University’s mission of ensuring equity for our students of all backgrounds as they pursue their educational and career objectives,” CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez wrote in a press release. “Enabling all CUNY students and graduates to verify their academic credentials regardless of circumstances allows them to move forward in their education or enter the workforce, building their careers as they help drive New York’s economic comeback. We are buoyed by Governor Hochul’s mandate to standardize this practice across higher education institutions in New York State. We thank the governor for her leadership and conviction.”

Baruch College student Jessica Yeroshalmi told The Ticker that she supports this decision.

“I think it’s important that those who don’t have the means to pay for their degree get the necessary help they need and have access to the grades that they honestly earned,” the junior said in a statement. “However, there should be consequences for not paying fees in order not to incentivize this behavior. The CUNY system needs to make it a priority to give aid to those who need it while also enforcing its fees. It was the right thing to do to end the policy of withholding transcripts but a more effective policy should take it’s place.”

Another Baruch student, public affairs major Victoria Ung, agreed with this sentiment.

“I certainly think that students are entitled to receive full access to the credentials that they worked hard for,” Ung told The Ticker in a statement. “The old policy shows a lack of concern and empathy for the stressful financial hardships that many students have gone through and continue to do so, all to pursue higher education and a degree. I’m glad that the policy is being reversed and that there have been programs to help alleviate the financial burden on students.”

Editor’s Note: Jessica Yeroshalmi, who was quoted in this story, is a Ticker writer.