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22 September 2021 / Andrew P. Condiles

Pennsylvania Private Schools: Collecting Unpaid Tuitions and Fees

In most cases, in the state of Pennsylvania, a private school has the right to retain the transcripts of students for whom tuition is unpaid. However, the withholding of a transcript is a limited tool with which to compel payment. The conventional wisdom behind the withholding of a transcript is simple: without a transcript from a student’s prior school, a student can’t enroll in a new school, giving the student’s parent(s) a strong incentive to pay the former school’s tuition bill. However, this is not true - the absence of a transcript does not necessarily preclude the student from enrolling in a Pennsylvania public school.

The lack of a transcript is also unlikely to be an obstacle to proper grade placement since reliable information can be presented from the student, such as a report card. In the absence of such information, school administrators can make this assessment by interviewing the student and asking them to perform academic tasks. 

Despite the limited leverage that the withholding of a transcript provides, a private school is not without options to collect an unpaid tuiton bill. Depending on the facts of the case, when a balance remains, the school can likely bring litigation against a student’s parent(s) for a breach of contract and/or unjust enrichment. The statute of limitations for either of these avenues of relief is four years.

Successfully obtaining a judgment does not ensure that a creditor will easily (if at all) be able to collect the money owed. While wage garnishments are permitted in limited circumstances, they can’t be used to collect on a judgment for unpaid tuition. The types of property which can be used to satisfy a judgment are limited: most retirement accounts, many types of insurance proceeds, and the first $10,000 in a bank account are exempt, further narrowing the options to collect. Pursuing a debtor’s real property is often an attractive way to enforce the judgment. However, this is an involved process. To place a lien on real property, the property must be identified, the judgment must be filed in the county or counties where it is located, and a writ must be prepared and then delivered by the sheriff. It is important to work with counsel that understands the best steps to take to improve the likelihood of recovering all that is owed.

If you have questions, please contact Andrew Condiles to find out how Weltman’s experienced team of debt collection professionals can assist you in collecting unpaid school tuition.

This blog is not a solicitation for business and it is not intended to constitute legal advice on specific matters, create an attorney-client relationship, or be legally binding in any way.

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Andrew P. Condiles

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