Attorney General Becerra and Assemblymember Rivas’ Bill Prohibiting Schools from Withholding Student Transcripts Moves Forward

Friday, April 12, 2019

SACRAMENTO - California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) have announced that their sponsored bill, Assembly Bill 1313, passed the Committee on Higher Education. The bill prohibits postsecondary schools from withholding transcripts from students who owe the schools a debt. The bill, which ensures that students are not handcuffed in pursuing educational and career opportunities by the practices of certain schools and colleges, will now be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

“Students with debt are currently in a Catch-22. They can’t access their transcripts if they have school debt, which limits opportunities that would help them address the debt,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We are grateful to Assemblymember Rivas for introducing AB 1313 to help protect students from unfair debt collection practices. No one should be denied a chance to move forward simply because of their financial situation.”

“I am proud to author AB 1313 and take on this social justice issue and I want to thank Attorney General Becerra for working with me on this measure. According to a 2016 survey conducted by Los Angeles Community College, data shows that of the 5,925 students surveyed, 19% of students are homeless, 55% are housing insecure, and 62.7% of students are experiencing food insecurity. These are issues that students across the state are grappling with and the students who accrue debt are often individuals who are already experiencing financial difficulty,” said Assemblymember Luz Rivas. “A student’s future should not be held hostage by their colleges; this measure preserves the idea that students deserve the opportunity to succeed.”

Current educational policy allows schools to withhold transcripts to collect debt. However, California is beginning to move away from this practice. Last year, California passed AB 1974, which prohibits K-12 public and charter schools from withholding grades or transcripts from students because they owe a debt. AB 1313 would extend this prohibition to postsecondary schools and also prevent them from conditioning the provision of a transcript on the payment of a debt. Postsecondary schools would also be prohibited from charging a higher fee or providing a less favorable treatment of a request for a transcript simply because the student owes a debt.

This legislation was prompted by investigations conducted by the California Department of Justice which unveiled instances where schools and colleges have threatened to withhold transcripts from students who owe, or are alleged to owe, debt as a tactic to collect this money. Withholding transcripts causes severe hardships for students, because a transcript is often required to secure a job, transfer or apply to another school, or obtain certain licenses.