Economic Justice

Bill to ban transcript and diploma withholding clears Senate Education Committee

April 7, 2022

Colorado is one step closer to becoming the fourth state to ban the widespread debt collection practice of withholding student transcripts and diplomas for overdue fees

ColoradoEvery year, thousands of Coloradans are unable to access their transcripts or diplomas as a result of overdue fees, including even nominal amounts. That could soon change as the state legislature considers a bill that would overturn this widespread practice.

HB1049: Prohibiting Transcript and Diploma Withholding, which is sponsored by Representatives Naquetta Ricks and Jennifer Bacon and Senators Brittany Pettersen and Jeff Bridges, was heard today in the Colorado Senate Education Committee and passed in a 4-3 vote. 

 “As Coloradans we believe in the values of responsibility and opportunity,” said Bridges. “If a student owes a college or university money, they ought to pay that money back. But when a student needs proof of their academic record to pursue a career and get a good paying job, so that they can afford to pay off what they owe, colleges and universities have a responsibility to provide that transcript. Holding transcripts for ransom is a harmful debt collection practice that has become all too common, and it’s time we put a stop to it here in Colorado.”

Last year, US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona voiced his support for putting an end to the practice, citing resulting inequitable education outcomes as well as economic difficulty posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. National estimates indicate that as many as 6.6 million students are impacted by this practice.

Colorado is not alone in looking to move away from this practice. In 2019 and 2020, Louisiana, California, and Washington became the first three states to pass laws banning transcript and diploma withholding. Currently, New York’s legislature is considering legislation and NY Governor Hochul directed the State University of New York System—the largest system of higher education institutions in the country—to drop the practice immediately. Bills to end this practice are also under consideration in Maine, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. 

“Colorado has often been a leader in protecting students from harmful financial practices in the past. This is a natural next step and one that other states are already taking to better support their students,” said Morgan Royal, Interim Deputy Director at New Era Colorado, a youth-focused non-profit advocating for the bill.

As currently amended, the bill distinguishes that transcript and diploma withholding may be allowed in cases of tuition debt, but not for any other overdue fee or fines. There are certain exceptions where the bill still requires a transcript must be offered regardless of the type of debt, including when it is needed for military enrollment, job applications, or transfers.

After its passage through the Senate Education committee today, the bill is now headed to the Senate floor. 

Full text of the bill can be found here.

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About New Era Colorado: 

New Era Colorado Foundation reinvents politics for young people, mobilizing and empowering a new generation to participate in our democracy to make Colorado a better place for everyone. We’re grassroots. We’re nonpartisan. And we’re all about empowering our generation to lead Colorado not left, not right, but forward. We do it all with one constant: making politics fun again. Since our founding 2006, we’ve registered more than 220,000 young people to vote across Colorado. To learn more, visit https://neweracolorado.org/.