OLYMPIA – A Senate bill under consideration would require public and private universities that receive money from the Washington College Grant Program to release transcripts for students even if they owe money for minor fees.
Low-income families and communities of color face many barriers in higher education, said bill sponsor Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton.
“We’re not graduating enough students, we want to remove the barriers,” Randall said. “You don’t want to get people caught in a loop.”
Current state and federal laws allow academic institutions to withhold official transcripts as a debt-collection practice. Under Randall’s bill, they couldn’t hold onto transcripts until the debt is paid.
If a job offer is dependent on an academic transcript but a student has a hold, they may be unable to get the job and earn the money they need to pay the fees causing a hold, she said.
“We want to make sure that we’re eliminating these small fees that can pile up,” Randall said.
University of Washington student Bengisu Cicek agreed. Financial barriers should not prevent students from furthering their education.
“Especially if it’s something minor like library fines or parking tickets,” she said.
Chris Mulick, Washington State University director of state relations, said public colleges have a few concerns with the bill.
Most holds for student debt come from unpaid housing charges, parking tickets or other fines, he said. Unpaid housing charges aren’t supported by state funds and have to be covered somehow. They could fall on students the following year.
“We agreed that no one should have their transcript held because of an unpaid parking ticket,” Mulick said.
An effective way to address this issue would be to set a rule that debt below $250 would not affect student access to transcripts, he said.
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