Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, one of the four universities in the Board of Regents system. Cloe Poisson / CTMirror.org

A bill that would prevent higher education institutions in Connecticut from withholding the transcripts of students who still owe debts to their college or university in certain instances has passed out of both chambers of the legislature.

The measure now awaits the governor’s signature.

Senate Bill 922 passed out of the House of Representatives by a vote of 117-33 Tuesday evening. 

“It generally prohibits Connecticut institutions of higher education from withholding a student’s transcript if the request is from a student’s employer, prospective employer or a branch of the U.S. military because the student owes the institution a debt,” said Rep. Gregg Haddad, D-Mansfield. “We’re ensuring that in the instance that the student who owes a debt to a university is trying to get a job, and in order to be gainfully employed and be able to pay off their debt, that the transcript hold does not pose a challenge or barrier.”

[RELATED: CT lawmakers look to end the ‘transcript trap’]

The bill passed out of the Higher Education Committee earlier this session and then unanimously out of the Senate last month.

Most of the opposition was centered on the concern that students wouldn’t have a reason to pay back their debts, which could range from unpaid tuition to smaller debts like library fines, without the transcript hold.

“Allowing students to just get their transcripts takes the one thing that will impel them to remove the debt, which leaves the colleges basically with one choice … which is essentially to send that data to collections,” said Rep. Francis Cooley, R-Plainville. “I think in the longer term, this is incentivizing students to make a poor choice that will be negative for them over their lives and careers. … While well-intentioned, this is essentially being cruelness through kindness in which the students do not learn what they need to learn and be prepared. Students go to college to get jobs, if they don’t have to pay their debts to the college, and they still get the job, they don’t really have any incentive to pay it off.”

However, Haddad assured lawmakers that the bill was written in partnership with the state’s colleges and universities and that the schools would be able to withhold the transcripts in other cases, including if the student wanted to transfer or apply to another institution. 

“[Connecticut higher institutions] see value in not being an obstacle for students to become employed,” Haddad said. “It does take one tool out of their toolbox in terms of encouraging students to pay off their debt, but they’re left with plenty of additional options.” 

Colleges and universities could also still send unpaid debt to collections, which would impact a student’s credit.

If signed into law, Connecticut would be the ninth state to pass a law that prevents colleges and universities from withholding student transcripts. California was one of the first states to prohibit the practice. Since then, six other states followed.

Jessika Harkay is CT Mirror’s Education Reporter, covering the K-12 achievement gap, education funding, curriculum, mental health, school safety, inequity and other education topics. Jessika's experience includes roles as a breaking news reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Hartford Courant. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Baylor University.