Data and Evidence

Compiling and analyzing available data is a foundational part of assessing holds at an institution. Staff availability and capacity, and data availability, are real challenges, but 12 public postsecondary institutions in the No Holding Back project piloted a basic approach to analysis and gained insights to how they might improve the use of holds at their institutions.

Overall across the participating institutions during academic year 2021-22:

Potentially 250,000 or more holds were placed in total across the reporting institutions, among their approximately 120,000 degree-seeking undergraduates, restricting registration, transcripts, or diplomas. The bursar and registrar units originated most of the holds.
Pell recipients, Hispanic students (of any race), non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander students were less likely than average to have the holds they experienced resolved within the single year analyzed—both for financial and other types of holds. And Pell students were less likely to experience financial holds.
Debt holds were resolved within the academic year for 88% of the students who had them


Information Technology and Administrative Holds



Consult information technology staff to clarify the workflow of holds and what your database and software supports for improving them.


  • Is a hold for critical student attention, or for the college’s convenience?
  • How many messages do students get? Are they in plain language? Do they include who, where, what, and when to resolve the hold?

We started with 89 holds and inactivated 57. We are still evaluating the remaining 32 to see if we can further reduce or eliminate as well as working on changing processes to support that.

Laramie County Community College


See other results and approaches to quantitatively assessing holds below and in the detailed PDF

An available Technical Guide for Assessing Administrative Holds with Data and workbook provide a starting point for an institution’s quantitative assessment of holds activity.

The guide provides a sample framework for regression, ordinary least squares analysis, and exploratory crosstabs to test the association of student characteristics, unresolved debt amounts, and holds that restrict access to registration or transcripts. Institutions with sufficient capacity and data may wish to expand their analysis; for example, analyzing more than a single year and examining both resolved and unresolved holds.

Other considerations and ideas, including the summary of results from this project, may be found in the detailed PDF guide.

A key focus of the No Holding Back project was whether there were differences for holds for students of color and lower-income students. Overall, across the participating institutions, the institutional analysis indicated:

Pell recipients, who were 35% of the students in this sample, were as likely or less likely than average to experience holds, but also less likely to have them resolved (transcript and debt holds).
Notwithstanding some variation, Hispanic students (of any race), non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander students, who were 32% of the students in this sample, were more likely to experience holds, and less likely than average to have them resolved.

WICHE also heard detailed perspectives from 50 students from 10 of the participating institutions about their experience with holds (see more in Student Perspectives). For example:

Siemour* was attending a four-year university when we spoke with them. Siemour recalled the experience of a registration hold due to an unpaid debt. They increased their work hours to make the payment but were less able to focus on classes. When the hold was lifted, they had to register for classes outside their required coursework because the required courses were no longer available.

If I can’t pay my debt of $1500, then I won’t be able to pay an additional fee of $100 to remove the hold. I just need more time, or an opportunity to explain what is going on. The payment plans having immediate consequences really doesn’t make sense.

Student at a Four-Year University

* Actual student names not used to provide anonymity to interviewed students.

See more in the detailed PDF.

The public postsecondary institutions in the No Holding Back project gained insights, which they used to pursue refinements to their use of holds. For example:

We learned that student experiences with registration holds vary immensely from discipline to discipline. Students of the department generating the second-greatest number of major-based holds were likely to carry more than 16 holds in their first two years; other departments and majors had vastly lower rates. The Associate Dean of that college immediately led efforts to change how student requirements for those majors is enforced.

California State University, Fullterton

Fifty percent (50%) of students with a debt hold owe less than $2,000, and over 40% owe less than $1,000. The total amount of debt that these students with $2,000 or less owed comes to only about 25% of all unresolved debt. The silver lining of finding this out was seeing that if we were to successfully revise our policies to increase the threshold for hold placement, we could potentially remove roadblocks for a relatively high number of students for relatively low financial risk.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Alaska Native students, including those who identify as two or more races, received a disproportionate number of holds compared to all students. Also, Pell-eligible students were likely to have $1,103 more in their hold amount compared to non-Pell-eligible students. We continue to explore both of these.

University of Alaska Southeast

Click the button below to download the complete guide in PDF

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