The University of Massachusetts Boston has relaxed its policy on withholding student transcripts from current students who owe the school money after a GBH News investigation, according to a top administrator.
Before the GBH Newsstory aired on March 22, a spokesman for UMass Boston — which has nearly 10,000 students, graduates and former students who can't get their academic records because they owe money — said the university withholds transcripts for unpaid balances in any amount.
On Thursday, however, Provost Joseph Berger said that policy has been changed and the university now only holds transcripts for debts exceeding $1,000.
“We’ve changed that during the pandemic,” Berger said.
In defending the general policy, Berger said withholding transcripts is one tool UMass Boston uses to receive money it’s owed.
“I would say that it's been effective to the extent that it gives us an opportunity to talk with students about financial planning to help them take care of that debt,” he explained.
For those students who cannot pay, Berger said, UMass Boston allows them to continue taking courses and set up repayment plans.
Colleges arewithholding transcripts from millions of students across the country, blocking many from finishing their degrees or pursuing graduate studies. A jointinvestigation by GBH News and The Hechinger Report found public colleges are responsible for the majority of transcripts withheld in Massachusetts.
Since the story was first published and aired, several people came forward to help a former UMass Boston student, Gabriel Toro of Boston, pay off his $2,700 debt to the school so he can obtain his transcript and degree. Toro was featured in the story.
Several of the state's public colleges have said they are considering changing their policy since GBH News inquired about their practices.
Even before the story, Bunker Hill Community College dropped its policy and no longer holds transcripts and degrees from students who owe any sum.
Correction: Due to incomplete information from UMass Boston, an earlier version of this story said that the school was relaxing its transcript policy for all current and former students as well as graduates. In fact, the new policy only applies to current students.