Exploring Stranded Credit in the BC Transfer System

Author: F. McQuarrie | Published: Mar 06, 2023

Stranded credit is credit that students have earned at a post-secondary institution, but cannot use or transfer because they have unpaid debts at the institution. Institutions will usually not issue official transcripts to students with debt, which results in the student being unable to formally document the credits they have acquired. This can cause problems for students in transferring credit and in continuing their education.

This study investigates the extent of stranded credit in the BC Transfer System (BCTS). The study collected data from two sources: a review of BCTS member institutions’ websites around unpaid student debt, and a survey of registrars at the 39 BCTS member institutions on their institutional policies and practices around student debt and withholding transcripts.

Almost all BCTS member institutions use “transcript holds” on student accounts with outstanding debt. The majority of institutions use this practice because withholding transcripts is one of the few strategies available to institutions attempting to collect unpaid debts.

Stranded credit is apparently not a major issue in the BCTS. However, because of the significant and negative impact that stranded credit can have on individual students, it is still important for institutions to be aware of the potential for stranded credit. The report recommends:

  • Institutions should ensure that students understand the contractual nature of their relationship with the institution when they are accepted and/or when they enrol in courses or programs.
  • Institutions should consider alternatives to complete transcript holds.
  • Institutions should consider penalties that are appropriate for the amount or type of debt owed.
  • Institutions should be able to make case-by-case decisions around individual students’ debt and transcript holds.
  • Receiving institutions and sending institutions should consider collaborating to collectively address situations when transfer credit is stranded because of a transcript hold.