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Transcripts: Yes, your school can withhold them

You just applied for a job, and now you need your official transcripts. You owe the school $1,000, but you should be able to get your transcript, right? Not necessarily.

If you owe a college money, can you get a copy of your transcripts?

According to the Freedom of Information Act, many academic transcripts are exempt. That means that you are not entitled to access public or private school records through this act. Instead, if you are delinquent in paying your financial obligations, you can have your transcript withheld. Some schools have digital transcripts that you can access at any time, but to obtain an official, signed and stamped document, you must be current with your financial obligations.

The Dear Colleague Letter CB-98-13 states that colleges are permitted and sometimes encouraged to withhold important academic transcripts in cases where there were defaults on Title IV loans. However, a school is not required to withhold a transcript by law. The laws also loosely allow schools to withhold this information if you are behind on Stafford or Perkins loans.

The schools can't withhold financial aid transcripts or financial aid histories, though. That information must be released to a school or student if it has been requested. By all technicalities, the academic transcript you want to access actually belongs to the school until you fulfill your financial obligations to the institution, unlike the financial aid documents.

Your attorney may be able to help you negotiate with the school to gain access to your transcripts so that you can apply for work to pay back a debt. Schools aren't required to withhold the information, so you may be able to work out an agreement.

Source: FinAid, "Withholding Academic Transcripts and Diplomas," accessed Jan. 12, 2017

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