Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Bill to prohibit colleges from withholding transcripts as debt collection tactic signed into law

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) on Friday announced AB 1313, their bill to help mitigate the student debt crisis, was signed into law.

The bill prohibits postsecondary schools from withholding transcripts from students who owe a debt and ensures students are not hamstrung in pursuing educational and career opportunities by the practices of certain schools and colleges.

“As our nation struggles under the weight of a $1.5 trillion student debt crisis, it is essential that we follow every road to help students succeed,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Today, with AB 1313 signed into law, California is a taking a step toward solving a chicken and egg dilemma. Students with debt can no longer be denied their transcripts – one of the most important tools students need to help address their debt. We’re proud to help protect students from unfair debt collection practices – no one should be denied opportunity simply because of their financial situation.”

“Thank you Gov. Newsom for signing AB 1313, which gives all of our students a chance to succeed regardless of their financial situation. A recent UC Student Association study highlighted that students of color and low-income students are three times more likely to take on student loan debt than their white and wealthier peers,” said Assemblywoman Luz Rivas. “There are plenty of other options on the table for the collection of debt, but withholding a student’s transcript should not be one of those options. The passage of AB 1313 eliminates higher education institutions’ ability to use the predatory practice of withholding transcripts to collect student debt. California continues to put students first."

AB 1313 was introduced to address educational policy that allowed schools to withhold transcripts to collect debt. California has taken steps to move away from this practice.

Last year, California passed AB 1974, which prohibits K-12 public and charter schools from withholding grades or transcripts from students because they owe a debt. AB 1313 addresses the same issue at postsecondary schools and colleges by prohibiting them from conditioning the provision of a transcript on the payment of a debt.

Postsecondary schools would also be prohibited from charging a higher fee or providing a less favorable treatment of a request for a transcript simply because the student owes a debt.

This legislation was prompted by investigations conducted by the California Department of Justice which unveiled instances where schools and colleges have threatened to withhold transcripts from students who owe, or are alleged to owe, debt as a tactic to collect this money, even when the debt was invalid.

Withholding transcripts interferes with economic opportunity and causes severe hardships for current and former students, because a transcript is often required to secure a job, transfer or apply to another school, or obtain certain licenses.

A copy of the bill can be found here.

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