MECEP applauds Governor Mills, legislative leaders’ passage of bill to empower students by expanding access to transcripts and diplomas

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) applauds Governor Mills and legislative leaders for passing LD 1838, which will substantially reform the harmful practice of transcript withholding.

“College education is a critical tool for Mainers to boost their income and for all of us to build a stronger economy,” said Arthur Phillips, MECEP economic policy analyst. “The passage of this bill is a victory for all students, and especially people with lower incomes, who can now more easily finish their degrees and bring their skills to the labor force.”

Until now, universities and colleges in Maine and across the country have withheld the transcripts and diplomas of students who have outstanding balances, sometimes even for parking tickets or library fines. Without transcripts, students cannot re-enroll or bring credits they’ve earned and paid for to another school. Without a diploma, students face greater obstacles in the job market and difficulty paying off debts, which they must do to receive their diploma.

In response to this counterproductive and harmful practice, Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli and Representative Margaret O’Neil introduced LD 1838, An Act To Improve Student Access to Postsecondary School Transcripts and Diplomas. Now signed into law, this act will prohibit colleges and universities from withholding transcripts from students who owe modest debts — up to $2,500 for four-year programs and up to $500 for two-year programs, which between the University of Maine system and Maine’s community colleges impacts nearly 10,000 students. Students who owe more will have the right to their transcripts and diplomas after entering a repayment plan with their college or university, and will not have to make a payment before taking possession of their documents.

“My education was delayed by three years because of a mid-semester medical issue that left me in debt,” said Samantha Donley, of Wilton. “For too many Maine students, especially those with low incomes, transcript withholding has been a trap. I’m thrilled that students like me will be able to keep working toward their degrees and careers without being derailed by an unexpected expense. This is a big step for our state.”

“Transcript withholding is an ineffective collection tool that holds students back from continuing their education or applying for jobs,” said Rep. Maggie O’Neil, D-Saco, a cosponsor of the bill. “This legislation will ensure that more Maine students are better positioned to finish school and build successful careers. I am thankful to everyone who supported the measure, and I am glad to see it become law.”

“Maine has taken a huge step forward by guaranteeing all students greater access to their transcripts and diplomas. With this new law, thousands of Mainers will recover access to stranded credits that they need in order to complete their education or secure jobs,” said Mike Pierce, Executive Director of the Student Borrower Protection Center. “We applaud Senator Vitelli and Representative O’Neil for championing this bill, Governor Mills for moving swiftly to sign it into law, the Maine Center for Economic Policy for its advocacy, and all the Mainers who shared their stories. The rest of the country should take note.”


Dan D’Ippolito