It has been common practice for many years for colleges to withhold a transcript due to nonpayment of a student loan or other fees to the institution. I am not aware of any exception to this requirement because someone wants to complete their education.
Most private schools can. However, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.
FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are "eligible students."
Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student's education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.
So depending upon the whether the school receives federal funding, it is possible that you have the right to see the records. There is nothing that prevents you from using cell phone to scan your records. It won't be an official transcript, but at least you have some evidence that in fact you attended, the courses you took and grades.
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If you owe money the college can hold your transcript--even your diploma--until you pay.
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