Please provide more information. Depending on what kind of debt this is, it may be past the statute of limitations. Statute of limitations for debts in general (and not falling into special exceptions like student loans) are usually not longer than 7 years.
Talk to a consumer lawyer in your area to make sure your rights are protected. A good list of consumer lawyers in your area is the NACA website:
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Strictly speaking, debts don't cease to exist; debts just become noncollectable at some point.
Schools can withhold transcripts if there is an unpaid balance. However, given the age of this debt, I am honestly at a loss as to how you could resolve the situation. As stated, request a validation of the debt (keeping in mind that if you are requesting from the original creditor, the school, FDCPA does not apply).
Ive seen this a lot, where the debt collector does not have updated information concerning the debt. I have my clients request account records in writing and then write a demand letter asking that the account be closed.