Paying for College

Enrolling in a New College Despite Debt to a Previous One

Question: I was a university student and I owe $4500 to my school. Now I can't register for a semester at another college until this amount is paid. I tried to sign up at a community college and was asked for a transcript before I could be qualified for financial aid. But my old college won't release my transcript until I pay my debt. What can I do?

Colleges tend to stick together when it comes to requiring a transcript from a previous institution before being able to enroll in a new one. If you cannot afford to pay your debt to your first university, you might try to speak to university officials about setting up a long-term payment plan. In that case, they may release your transcript or at least provide a letter for your new college that explains your circumstances.

Do you feel that you were misled or treated unfairly by your first university after you matriculated there? For instance, did this university not offer classes that were promised or, in some other way, did it fail to meet the standards that were advertised before you enrolled? If so, you can try writing a letter of explanation to both this university and to your prospective transfer school to see if they can make some sort of exception for you.

You can also try explaining your situation in person to an admissions official at your transfer college, but don't be surprised if your plight doesn't fall on sympathetic ears. As I said above, colleges do tend to frown on candidates who owe a debt to other institutions. But if there are extenuating circumstances or if the school you owe the money to is a disreputable one, you may be able to convince the new admission official to consider your application anyway. But I'm not optimistic about this, so your best bet may be to do what you can to square your bill with your first college.