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A new CT law lets students with college debt get transcripts. Some say it doesn’t go far enough

The Connecticut Capitol building as seen from Bushnell Park in Hartford
Tony Spinelli
Connecticut Public
The Connecticut Capitol building as seen from Bushnell Park in Hartford

A Connecticut law that went into effect Oct. 1 partially bars colleges and universities from withholding transcripts from students with outstanding school debt.

Under the law, students with institutional debt can now get the paperwork they need to apply for certain jobs, or to the U.S. military.

For some students, the new rule is a potential game changer, allowing access to more employment opportunities at a time when education expenses have already stretched their finances to the limit.

“The next time a full-time position opens up that I might be qualified for, I don't have to worry about the transcripts because they can't pull it,” Sara Berry said.

Berry is a senior vice president for part-timers with the 4Cs SEIU union, which represents thousands of higher education workers across the state. She said money she owed to Central Connecticut State University prevented her from applying for full-time jobs in academia. Full-time teaching roles often require official transcripts, so Berry said she has taught at an adjunct-level while working another part-time job.

Changes to Connecticut’s transcript request requirements were first proposed in 2022, with the goal of stopping the practice of withholding them entirely.

But lawmakers compromised and the new regulations still have a big exception: if a student owes money, and needs a transcript to go to another school, colleges don’t have to provide them.

Advocates say this keeps up barriers to learning for many, especially low-income and marginalized communities who are often historically most impacted by these laws.

“We as a state must make it easier for people to go back and finish their degrees,” said Amy Dowell, executive director of Education Reform Now Connecticut. “Because if you have spent tens of thousands of dollars on a degree, and then you don't actually have a degree, you've really wasted a lot of resources.”

Colleges and universities in Connecticut have supported the change, but have pushed back against the idea of eliminating transcript withholdings entirely.

“If transcript holds were banned outright, institutions would have no gentle mechanism to keep students engaged to pay off their debts,” said Jennifer Widness, president of Connecticut's Conference of Independent Colleges (CCIC).

“Instead, they would be forced to go to collections more consistently, which benefits no one in the long run,” Widness said.

Connecticut State Colleges & Universities (CSCU), which represents half a dozen public colleges and universities, also cited the importance of limited transcript holds as a way to avoid the more severe acton of sending a debt to a collection agency. But it said it supported the changes passed by lawmakers,and that prior practices to withhold transcripts from certain job seekers was damaging.

Dowell, with Education Reform Now Connecticut, says her group isn’t giving up on the idea of banning transcript holds entirely, but says the state should invest more in programs to help students finish their degrees in the first place.

“Affordability and the ability to move on from college, when you have financial constraints, is extremely important for the economy and for issues around fairness,” Dowell said.

As Connecticut Public's state government reporter, Michayla focuses on how policy decisions directly impact the state’s communities and livelihoods. She has been with Connecticut Public since February 2022, and before that was a producer and host for audio news outlets around New York state. When not on deadline, Michayla is probably outside with her rescue dog, Elphie. Thoughts? Jokes? Tips? Email
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