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H.R. 3761: Protecting Access to Student Transcripts Act of 2019

If you default on your student loans, and you haven’t received your college transcript yet, should the university have the right to withhold its release to you?

Context

Some colleges and universities refuse to release a student’s transcripts if they have defaulted on their student loan payments, as an incentive for students to make the payments.

“Your school may withhold your academic transcript until your defaulted student loan is satisfied,” the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid warns. “The academic transcript is the property of the school, and it is the school’s decision — not the U.S. Department of Education’s or your loan holder’s — whether to release the transcript to you.”

What the bill does

The Protecting Access to Student Transcripts (PAST) Act would prevent any college or university — even a private one — from withholding a student’s transcript on account of defaulting on their loans.

If passed, it would take effect beginning in the 2019–20 academic year, which is to say this September.

It was introduced in the House on July 15 as bill number H.R. 3761, by Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV3).

What supporters say

Supporters argue the bill stops the common practice of adding insult to injury for those unable to fully afford their higher education costs.

“The last thing a student drowning in debt needs is to have their transcript withheld, making it that much harder to get a good-paying job to pay off the student loans they accrued in the first place,” Rep. Lee said in a press release.

“Millions of students are already buried under a $1.4 trillion mountain of debt, and we should be doing everything we can to help them start life their life after school off on the right foot,” Rep. Lee continued. “The PAST Act will do exactly that by helping students succeed and make a living without their student debt weighing them down.”

What opponents say

Opponents counter that even though the tactic of withholding transcripts can sound cruel, it’s often the best tactic an institution has to ensure payments.

“It’s the only tool we have to make them pay,” the University of California system’s director of student financial support Kate Jeffery told the Los Angeles Times.

“As a result of a borrower’s default in the Title IV Student Loan Programs, the Department of Education encourages the withholding of academic transcripts,” the department wrote in a 1998 letter under the Bill Clinton administration. “The withholding of academic transcripts is solely an institutional decision, but has resulted in numerous loan repayments.”

Odds of passage

The bill has attracted four bipartisan House cosponsors: three Democrats and one Republican. It awaits a potential vote in the House Education and Labor Committee.

Considering that the practice is widespread in both red and blue states, it’s unclear that the status quo practice has generated enough opposition among Congress members to force its banning.

Last updated Aug 15, 2019. View all GovTrack summaries.

No summary available.