The City University of New York (CUNY) announced earlier this week that they will be suspending two policies that will free tens of thousands of students with debt to pursue employment and other educational opportunities, effective immediately,
The Chancellor, Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, is suspending a long-held policy that prevented CUNY schools from releasing the official transcripts of students and graduates who owe the university unpaid tuition and fees.
Along with that, CUNY colleges will also lift the financial holds of approximately 74,000 students who were enrolled during the semesters of the COVID-19 pandemic. This clears the way for them to register for the Fall 2021 semester even if they owe outstanding tuition and fee balances to CUNY.
Both measures are being implemented in connection with the CUNY Comeback Program, an initiative announced by Governor Cuomo on July 28 to forgive $125 million in unpaid institutional debt for at least 50,000 students and recent graduates.
Students are eligible to have outstanding balances automatically cleared under the CUNY Comeback Program. Those who may apply for a waiver because of financial hardship will immediately see their financial holds lifted while all CUNY graduates will be able to access their official transcripts.
“Together with the CUNY Comeback Program, these policy changes reaffirm our commitment to CUNY’s mission by making it significantly easier for tens of thousands of students to continue their educational goals or enter the workplace and assist in the City’s ongoing economic recovery,” said Rodríguez.
“Now, more than ever, it’s crucial that CUNY adapt its policies to meet the evolving needs of post-pandemic New Yorkers. Releasing student transcripts and eliminating financial holds, regardless of a person’s financial status, is the most pragmatic and compassionate way forward in this challenging climate. These actions continue the push to keep all CUNY students moving ahead on a path toward success,” he added.
The suspension of financial holds in time for students to register for the Fall 2021 semester is a one-time action to support students who were impacted during the pandemic. It applies to students who were enrolled in the University from March 13, 2020, the date COVID-19 was declared a national emergency, through the Spring 2021 semester, the same period of time as the CUNY Comeback Program.
The policy of withholding transcripts has drawn criticism as it restricts students from pursuing further educational and professional opportunities. There is currently a bill in the State Senate sponsored by Senator Kevin Thomas (D-Long Island) that would eliminate the practice of withholding transcripts for good in the state.
“I applaud CUNY’s decision to end the egregious practice of withholding transcripts from former students with unpaid bills. It is my hope that other colleges and universities in New York State will follow and voluntarily end this harmful policy,” said Thomas.
“I introduced legislation which was passed by the New York State Senate, making transcript withholding a prohibited debt practice. The legislation would ensure that no student is denied the opportunity to pursue a career path or access to social and economic mobility simply because of an outstanding balance on their school account. Although long overdue, I am grateful that CUNY has finally taken action and I will continue to advocate for my legislation to become law,” the lawmakers added.