It’s usually straightforward. When students successfully complete a college course, they receive credit for the course and those credits are reported by the Registrar on their transcript or record of coursework, grades, and degrees awarded. Students request that the Registrar provide them with an official transcript to document their coursework or graduation when they transfer to another institution, or apply for scholarships or employment.
“Stranded: left helpless or without transport.”
If, however, a student has “unfinished business” with the college – perhaps they still owe tuition money, have outstanding parking tickets or library fines – the college can withhold the official transcript until those issues are settled.
Those credits earned by the student are now effectively “stranded.” The student cannot access an official copy of their transcript and cannot officially report their credits or degree to others. Those credits are “left helpless” and cannot be “transported” to another institution.
According to Ithaka S & R Research, a New York based non-profit promoting innovation in higher education, an estimated 6.6 million students in the United States may have stranded credits for unpaid tuition balances room and board, parking tickets or library fees (sometimes as little as $25.) 95% of schools use transcript holds.
A hold, sometimes called an administrative hold, has been placed on these transcripts because it is the most effective way to get a conversation about repayment started, but it generally occurs only after the school has attempted to reach out to the student through email, phone, text and regular mail. It is a final step designed to force students to settle their accounts with the school.