A federal court has found that a student who erased her tuition bills by filing bankruptcy has a right to force her alma mater to provide her with transcripts.

Stefanie Kim Kuehn earned a Master’s degree from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, but she graduated owing $6000 in tuition and fees. She later declared bankruptcy, discharging that debt, but the university refused to give her her transcripts.

A judge ruled that the university, having allowed Kuehn to graduate, could not now withhold transcripts in the face of a bankruptcy filing. That ruling was upheld at the federal circuit court level in 2007, and at the appellate level yesterday.

The court’s ruling provides little comfort for other broke students, though — the judges ruled that CSU would have been within their rights to delay granting Kuehn’s degree until she paid her bills.