Can a university or college refuse to give you a copy of your transcript—essentially rendering your education valueless—if you filed bankruptcy on your educational debt?
Most people have heard that discharging education debt in a bankruptcy is next to impossible, but that’s not really true.
If the debt is in the form of loans, you generally have to meet certain strict requirements to have them discharged, showing that payment of the debt “will impose an undue hardship” on you and your family. If, however, the debt is merely an unpaid bill from the university or college, you can list it as an unsecured debt along with the other debts that you have acquired, and they’ll be treated as such—which is what one Wisconsin woman did.
Enrolled in a two-year master’s degree program at a university, she stopped paying for her classes midway through the first year. Perhaps due to poor accounting processes, the university continued to allow her to enroll in new classes, take exams and eventually receive her master’s degree.
However, when the former student asked for her transcript in order to provide her employer with proof of the degree and get the raise associated with it, the university presented her with a bill instead.
Ultimately, the former student filed for bankruptcy and listed the debt, which was directly to the university itself, among her other debts. The debt was discharged, apparently without the university bothering to protest—but officials still refused to release the student’s transcript unless she paid what she owed in full.
Ultimately, the case found its way to the court of appeals. It determined that there was an implied contract and understood custom between schools and students: students did the work and the university would supply a transcript for a nominal cost.
Had the debt not been discharged, the university would have been within its rights to demand payment before releasing the transcript. Because the debt was discharged, however, the university was violating federal bankruptcy laws by acting in a coercive manner designed to force someone to pay a debt that had been lawfully discharged, and the student had a right to her transcript.
If you’re worried how your bankruptcy will effect your ability to get a transcript from your former school, discuss the specifics with a bankruptcy attorney today.
Source: caselaw.findlaw.com, “In the Matter of Stefanie Kim KUEHN,” accessed Feb. 06, 2017