Starting this fall, higher education institutions have to add a note to a student’s transcript if the student is not eligible to re-enroll because of non-academic or non-financial reasons.
House Bill 449 was passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott during the previous legislative session. The new law also states that the college or university can remove the notation if the student is eligible to re-enroll or if the institution finds there is “good cause” to remove it.
If a student withdraws from college while there are pending disciplinary charges, institutions have to finish the disciplinary process and finalize determination of responsibility. A note shall be added to that student’s transcript if the student is deemed ineligible to enroll as a result of the disciplinary process.
Weatherford College Executive Student Services Dean Adam Finley said the college currently does not make these notations to student transcripts but will have to because of HB 449.
“Fortunately, at Weatherford College these cases are rare,” Finley said.
HB 449 author Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, said in an April press release that the bill prevents students responsible for violent behaviors from enrolling in a new school “while concealing a previous expulsion for a serious offense.”
“In the three years that I have worked on this issue, I have heard far too many stories about students who have committed sexual assault and other serious infractions being able to transfer to a new school without the admissions office being aware of their expulsion,” Turner said in the press release. “Universities deserve to have all of the information available so they can make informed decisions about who attends their universities and how best to keep their campuses safe.”
The story of a Baylor University student who was expelled for sexual assault and was able to transfer to the University of Texas-Dallas was noted in the press release as a reason for the new law. UTD would have known about the student’s expulsion had HB 449 been law then.
Weatherford’s Freedom House Sexual Assault Program Manager Pamela Donnelly said Freedom House is supportive of the new law, which not only concerns itself with sexual misconduct crimes but other violent offenses as well.
“It supplies important information on a transcript for other schools,” Donnelly said.
Before the law passed, institutions made notations on a school-by-school basis, Donnelly said. Colleges and universities were not legally protected to make notations of this kind.
Donnelly praised HB 449’s narrow scope and the protections it has for students who may not be guilty of the crime in question.
WC General Counsel Dan Curlee said the new law’s language is vague and may have to be clarified by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board which is tasked with adopting the rules to implement the law.
“The time taken to build those rules will leave, I expect, a period of uncertainty during which the college will need to proceed with caution,” Curlee said.
Though the law is not complicated based on face value, Curlee said the challenge is making sure the process to determine ineligibility is fair to students involved and follows the rules of the coordinating board.
WC doesn’t have a formal stance on HB 449, Curlee said.
“The college has not developed a formal position on the law but I have every expectation that the spirit of the law is something the board and administration will support,” Curlee said.