- Trustees for the City University of New York voted Monday to end a policy under which the 260,000-student public system withheld transcripts and refused to verify enrollment for students who owed tuition and fee balances.
- The system had already suspended its transcript withholding policy in August. But Monday's vote makes the change permanent.
- The move comes a week after CUNY's sister system, the State University of New York, announced it is no longer withholding academic transcripts from students with outstanding debt. The two systems made the changes after Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed ending transcript withholding during a State of the State Address earlier this year. Hochul, a Democrat, is also proposing legislation to prevent transcript withholding at all higher ed institutions in New York.
Relatively small balances stemming from library fines or other fees can prevent students from obtaining their transcripts, according to advocates who say colleges shouldn't withhold access to students' proof of their studies simply because they can't pay. The issue can significantly affect students' lives because they often need transcripts or other enrollment verification to transfer, apply to different academic programs or find work.
Research has also indicated that students who are not of traditional age, who are from low-income backgrounds, and who are members of racial or ethnic minority groups are among those most likely to be hurt by transcript withholding. The issue is pertinent at CUNY, which spans community colleges to graduate institutions and prides itself as an engine moving low-income students into the middle class.
Hochul in a statement labeled as "barbaric" the practice of colleges withholding transcripts.
CUNY was "buoyed by Governor Hochul's mandate to standardize this practice across higher education institutions in New York State," the system's chancellor, Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, said in a statement.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has also said college leaders should reconsider their use of transcript holds.
The CUNY system's temporary suspension of transcript withholding in August came just after the system joined a surge of institutions using federal coronavirus relief money to wipe out debts students owed to their colleges. CUNY's relief effort cleared about $100 million in unpaid tuition and fees. It covered over 57,000 students.
The system has released transcripts for nearly 43,000 students since it forgave debts and temporarily suspended transcript withholding, it said.
CUNY is made up of seven community colleges, 11 senior colleges and seven graduate or professional institutions. It awards 55,000 degrees annually.