Transcript Holds Derail Educational Aspirations, Job Opportunities for Texans


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Laura Felix
Texas Appleseed
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A New Report Reveals Issues with Transcript Withholding and Offers Policy Solutions

AUSTIN, Texas—A new report by Texas Appleseed finds that by withholding college transcripts for outstanding school-related debts, Texas colleges and universities construct financial barriers that limit the upward mobility of current and former students, negatively impacting workforce development. Without access to their transcript, students are often unable to transfer to other higher education institutions or secure employment, thereby decreasing their earning potential and stifling economic growth within the state. 

Texas Appleseed obtained data from six Texas colleges, namely, Blinn College, Dallas College, Northeast Texas Community College, San Jacinto College, South Plains College, and Victoria College, to better understand the impacts of transcript withholding in Texas. The sample of schools included colleges with large and small enrollment, and in rural and urban settings, to yield a diverse representation. The findings are compiled in the report, Withholding Higher Education: How Current Transcript Policies at Texas Colleges Derail Educational Aspirations and Job Opportunities for Texans. The data reveals that:

  • The impact of transcript withholding falls primarily on individuals no longer enrolled in institutions. On average, former students hold 82.6% of debts and likely did not complete a degree program.
  • Withholding transcripts disproportionately harms Black students. Across the institutions in the study, Black students comprise, on average, 9.7% of the active student body and 23.9% of the individuals harmed by transcript withholding.
  • Nearly 58% of the debts are more than five years old, suggesting transcript holds are an ineffective means of collecting school-related debts.

Of the six schools sampled, there are nearly 55,000 outstanding debts preventing individuals from accessing their college transcript. The average amount of debt is $583, and the median amount is about $395. 

“Colleges enable these relatively small debts to derail students from completing a degree and from benefiting financially from that achievement,” said Jessi Stafford, Senior Research Analyst at Texas Appleseed and the report author. “Completing a degree would bolster both individual income and the student’s ability to repay the debt.” 

It is estimated that by 2036, 70% of Texas jobs will require education or training beyond high school, but in 2022, only a third of Texans over the age of 25 held a bachelor’s degree or higher. Transcript withholding policies, which prevent people from receiving credit for completed courses if they return to the same institution, transferring to another institution to complete an incomplete degree, or obtaining a job requiring a college transcript, create obstacles to achieving higher education and employment. This undermines our state’s ability to remain economically competitive.

Eleven states have implemented policies that ban, or partially ban, transcript withholding. While the practice is permitted by the Texas Education Code, implementation of the policy is left to the discretion of each institution. Five of the colleges sampled indicate that any amount of debt results in a transcript hold, but Dallas College’s policy is to only place holds if debts exceed $250. 

Based on the findings from this report, Texas Appleseed recommends:

  • Texas should prohibit higher education institutions from placing holds on students’ transcripts for unpaid debt.
  • Absent a total ban, Texas should require consistent and transparent data reporting related to debts and transcript holds across all higher education institutions, which would provide added insight into the problem in Texas and inform future policy solutions.

The Texas Legislature has passed multiple policies in recent years aimed at helping students excel in college and transition into the workforce, proving its commitment to promoting higher education. Eliminating transcript withholding as a practice would build on existing reforms to open pathways and remove barriers to higher education and employment for all Texans. 

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