1. Education

Can a Private School Withhold Transcripts for Non-payment ?

By July 18, 2009

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I have seen this question asked more in the past nine months than at any time in the twelve years I have written this column. The answer? Unequivocally "yes". The reason why is that schools have no other way to make sure you pay your bills. It's just like a car loan. The bank loans you money to buy the car but puts a lien on the title to the car so that you cannot sell it without the bank's permission. If you stop making payments, the bank can take back the car.

So your child's transcript or academic record is held hostage until all of your bills are paid in full. You didn't know that? Yes, you did, because you signed a statement or contract with the school stipulating those specific conditions. If you read the fine print, you will see what happens if you withdraw your child or refuse to pay any indebtedness to the school. Why is a transcript important? Because employers, colleges and universities will required a certified copy of your child's high school transcript for verification purposes.

Have more questions about private schools? Questions Most Often Asked by Parents covers a lot of ground. Or post your question in the Private Schools Forum.

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July 23, 2009 at 11:36 pm
(1) Mallorie says:

Absolutely. They can do anything they want if you haven’t paid. If you don’t hold up your end of the contract, they aren’t obligated to hold theirs up.

August 10, 2009 at 4:42 pm
(2) kelly says:

Can a Private School Withhold Transcripts for years of school that have been completed and paid in full. What if you signed a contract for year 4 and in the summer you change schools. Year four has not started, can they still hold the transcripts. Contract is signed but the product has not in any portion been delivered.

August 13, 2009 at 6:39 am
(3) Linda says:

I have the same question as Kelly. If you have paid everything for the school years past and decide to change schools in the summer, can a private school refuse to send transcripts to the new school? You have fulfilled the contractual obligations of the years requested.

September 16, 2009 at 8:47 pm
(4) Dani says:

I believe the OFFICIAL transcript can be withheld, but according to FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act), ), something must be given to the student/family if so requested – “an institution may not deny an individual access to his/her education records … required to provide unofficial copies of records.” It further states that if a school chooses to withhold the official transcript for monetary reasons, a copy of the transcript must be furnished but can be stamped as “unofficial” if the school so chooses.

January 6, 2010 at 1:07 pm
(5) bill says:

This is not as black/white as presented. There are Court cases where, if the student was allowed to take their final exams and attend graduation, the Court found an implicit contract was created between the School and Student and that the Student had the right to the transcripts.

This can also be challenged in Courts as being unconscionable under State Laws. While a School may try to leverage this (though they risk the appearance of blackmail), it does not technically add any value to a School’s claim for full payment from a legal perspective and may undermine any legal claim (based on Case law), since the School did not fully deliver it’s value to the Student (to your analogy, it would be similar to a car loan, however, the Dealer never game you the keys to begin with, so, is it reasonable to demand full payment?).

There are far better solutions, that start with working out payment schedules and non-legal recourse without putting a child’s future in the the middle of what is no doubt a difficult situation for both sides.

February 11, 2010 at 1:07 pm
(6) Lyn says:

I disagree. THe transcripts do not belong to the parent that signed the contract and the child is a minor and is not able to enter into a contract. Why then is the child punished because of the parents lack of monies? If the parents lost their jobs tdue to the economy then it’s ok if their 9 year old drops out of school because the parents can’t afford to pay the school in a timely manner. That is totally absurd! If this is the way is truly is then we need to prepare for A LOT more school drop outs. I can understand if the private school can put it on the parents credit report but to withhold a childs EDUCATIONAL records that belongs to the CHILD. Totally absurd!

June 9, 2010 at 6:50 pm
(7) Michael Marx says:

If a student went to a school and completed an undergraduate degree and a JD, would the school be able to withhold official transcripts from the student’s undergraduate degree if s/he paid for the undergraduate degree in full but not the JD?

June 19, 2010 at 9:57 pm
(8) Michael says:

My daughter was promised scholarships while she went to school. These scholarships with what we paid was the only way we could send her. They withdrew the scholarships due to funds and then withheld her transcripts now for two years. They are holding my daughter’s education hostage…what are we to do?

June 26, 2010 at 1:25 pm
(9) Stacia Pulliam says:

I went to North Myrtle Beach Christian School and during my senoir year my family just wasnt financially able to support the debt owed each month. After a series of dreadful events I just couldnt go anymore and needed to help my mother who was raising me. I have always been a wonderful student obtaining many national, state, and local awards for academic studies. After trying to help my family get back on their feet I needed to finish my high school education! this was a MUST! I only need one more credit to get my diploma. After trying to enroll in many different high school programs the school has still been holding my transcript. This is not fair to me. I cant get a decent job or anything. I am not a drop out junkie kid…I want so desperatly to get my diploma. I think that it is ridiculous that i cant even finish one credit. It’s sad that a “CHRISTIAN SCHOOL” is more concerned with money than a childs future. I would be happy to pay some kind of payment but they want everything in full and I just cant do that on my own.

This school has permitted fraud on so many occasions its unreal. If your a rich kid your F automatically becomes a B. Ive seen it done with my friends. Some kids dont come at all and their attendance are counted because their parents will donate money to the school. There are juniors and seniors there that are still learning how to multiply and taking classes with the middle school kids. This is completely against everything that they “Teach”. There has to be way for me to get my transcripts!

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