January 31, 2022
Albany, NY

Governor Hochul Announces CUNY Formally Discontinues Practice of Withholding Transcripts from Students and Grads with Unpaid Balances

Governor Hochul Announces CUNY Formally Discontinues Practice of Withholding Transcripts from Students and Grads with Unpaid Balances

Follows Governor Hochul's 2022 State of the State Address Plan to Stop Transcript Withholding at All Colleges and Universities

FY 2023 Budget Includes Legislation to End Punitive Debt-Collection Practice at All Higher Education Institutions

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Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the City University of New York Board of Trustees voted on Monday to permanently end a policy that banned CUNY colleges from releasing official transcripts and enrollment verification to students and graduates who owed the University unpaid tuition balances and fees. The action follows CUNY's August 2021 suspension of this policy. Governor Hochul made the proposal to end this practice in her 2022 State of the State Address and this follows an announcement that the SUNY Board had also ended transcript withholding. Governor Hochul's FY 2023 Budget also includes legislation to end this practice at all higher education institutions.

"Students work hard throughout the duration of their education and holding their transcripts hostage for payment is a barbaric practice that we must end across the board," Governor Hochul said. "New Yorkers and those who come to attend school in our state, alike, will not be able to move forward successfully if they are facing financial challenges that prevent them access to opportunity. I commend CUNY for ending this practice and look forward to continuing to work so that every student in New York can be free from transcript withholding."

The decision also comes as colleges and universities around the country are reflecting on using the withholding of transcripts from students and graduates as a method of debt collection. Even as 76 percent of CUNY students graduate debt-free, many still encounter financial obstacles that lead to unpaid tuition and fees. In some cases, these small outstanding balances are from activity fees, library fines and other incidental charges. The inability to obtain an academic transcript prevented these students from receiving their diploma and entering the workforce or continuing their education at CUNY or another institution.

The ban on transcript holds followed the historic announcement in July of the CUNY Comeback Program, which erased over $100 million in unpaid tuition and fees for more than 57,000 students through the country's largest debt-forgiveness initiative of its kind.

Since the University forgave the debt to thousands through the Comeback program and suspended the practice of holding transcripts, CUNY has released transcripts for 42,852 students.

CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez said, "This compassionate action reinforces the University's mission of ensuring equity for our students of all backgrounds as they pursue their educational and career objectives. Enabling all CUNY students and graduates to verify their academic credentials regardless of circumstances allows them to move forward in their education or enter the workforce, building their careers as they help drive New York's economic comeback. We are buoyed by Governor Hochul's mandate to standardize this practice across higher education institutions in New York State. We thank the governor for her leadership and conviction."

The City University of New York is the nation's largest urban public university, a transformative engine of social mobility that is a critical component of the lifeblood of New York City. Founded in 1847 as the nation's first free public institution of higher education, CUNY today has seven community colleges, 11 senior colleges and seven graduate or professional institutions spread across New York City's five boroughs, serving over 260,000 undergraduate and graduate students and awarding 55,000 degrees each year. CUNY's mix of quality and affordability propels almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all the Ivy League colleges combined. More than 80 percent of the University's graduates stay in New York, contributing to all aspects of the city's economic, civic and cultural life and diversifying the city's workforce in every sector. CUNY's graduates and faculty have received many prestigious honors, including 13 Nobel Prizes and 26 MacArthur "Genius" Grants. The University's historic mission continues to this day: provide a first-rate public education to all students, regardless of means or background.

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

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