How Can I Get My Damn College Transcript When I Owe Them Money


Dear Steve,

I attended a private university but left before graduating. I was enrolled there from 2007-2009. There was a balance on my account when I left. This balance was not a loan. It was for tuition, housing, meals, etc. I was not aware of the balance and certainly in no position to pay it at the time had I been, so the balance jumped from around $4k or $5k in 2009 to $11k in 2012. The university sold the debt to a collection agency and wrote it off.

In late 2015, I re-enrolled in a different, public university’s online program in an attempt to finish my degree. I was able to get my transcript. Now I am trying to transfer to my local public university because I think a classroom environment would be better for me. I can’t get my transcript this time because the private university has placed holds on my account due to this balance.

I have a Perkins loan with the private university that was behind, but I worked out an agreement with them. That loan has been rehabbed and is current. I’m hoping to pay it off either by the end of 2017 or early 2018. The two holds for the other $11k balance remain.

I am paying down the Perkins loan and I’ve been paying my tuition for my current online program out of pocket. I’m trying to avoid taking out any more loans, focusing instead on paying down what I have, and have thus far been successful. I cannot afford to pay the balance and I’m not even sure which collection agency it is with.

I’m not trying to scam anyone or wiggle out of my responsibilities. Mine is a common story. I fell on hard times, was not in a position to pay what I owed and then fell into debt. I’m in a better position now. I’ve been employed at the same place for 6 years and working there is what inspired me to go back to school. With a degree in my field, I would merit higher pay. I can’t be described as well-off, but I’m doing what I can. I just want to finish my degree, which would put me in an even better position financially and potentially allow me to pay off more debt, but I’ve hit a pretty major roadblock.

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I (and my therapist) really think that transferring to the local, brick-and-mortar university would be the best option for me, but they have told me that they can’t give me an admission decision without the transcript from the private university.

How do I resolve this? Is there any legal recourse that would allow me to get the transcript? I am aware that schools are able to hold them, but is it possible to get them to release it short of paying $11k that I don’t have? What are my options, if any?



Dear Kira,

Some schools will give you a one shot deal at getting your transcript. It sounds like you already got that option and used it up.

If the debt is owed to the school and not a student loan lender you can attempt to negotiate with the school, contact the State Department of Education to see if there is any State law that would force them to have to give it to you, or you could file bankruptcy to deal with the debt and thus release the hold on your transcript. See this question and this one.

Filing bankruptcy to get the protection of the automatic stay against collection or legal action on this debt would give you access to your transcript.

I would suggest you talk to a bankruptcy attorney who is licensed in your state. You might want to read How to Find a Great Bankruptcy Attorney.


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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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5 thoughts on “How Can I Get My Damn College Transcript When I Owe Them Money”

  1. hi Steve I was reading your info on getting your credits, my grandson is having this problem, I’m trying to help him but they won’t budge, on helping

    • Mark, schools holding onto transcripts as collateral is a smart business move on their part. It is the last bit of control they have to attempt to collect a delinquent debt. You’ll have to either pay the outstanding debt, negotiate a settlement, or see if the state department of education where the school is located has an alternative policy to release transcripts.

  2. If this college is small, they may work with you. I had a similar situation about 10 years ago. My college billing person allowed my transcript out, but only after I agreed to a payment plan. Part of the agreement involved signing a 3 years plan and giving them 12 checks predated for the next 12 months. They held the checks and deposited them on the same day each month. Talk with them, they may make a deal.


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