The first Automated Clearinghouse Association was established in California in 1972 for the purpose of developing an electronic payment alternative to paper checks. In 1974, the National Automated Clearinghouse Association (NACHA) was founded and by 1978 it was possible for two financial institutions anywhere in the United States to exchange ACH payments. To all of us in the banking industry, the “checkless society” was just around the corner. Fast forwarding to 2012, ACH payment volume has grown to more than 21 billion transactions annually. As dramatic as that growth is, it is an important footnote that the volume of electronic payments did not eclipse the volume of paper checks until 2007. That’s 35 years and proof positive that old habits die hard!
As our world marches down the path toward electronic transcript exchange, I keep looking for parallels to the evolution of electronic payments…and there are many. The first and most obvious parallel is the large number of “institutions” that ultimately need to jump on the bandwagon. In 1972, there were more than 12,000 financial institutions that mostly used one of 5 or 6 available demand deposit systems for processing payments.
Here in 2013, we have more than 4,000 postsecondary institutions that mostly use one of a handful of student information systems to process transcripts coming and going. And much like the payment industry’s efforts to establish standards of exchange, higher education has spent a very long time wrestling with evolving data “standards” for academic records. If we peg the early 1990’s leading to the establishment of the SPEEDE server as the “beginning”, then higher education has been on this journey to a “paperless transcript society” for about 20 years. Allowing for the acceleration of time due to things like the existence of the internet and mobile technology, I would make a guess that the volume of electronic transcripts will finally exceed the volume of paper transcripts sometime in the next 3‐5 years, perhaps by 2017 (no science behind that, just a guess). And that would be great! But that would also mean that there will still be a lot of paper floating around for years to come. And that is a problem.
Credentials believes that just because we are all working to make paper transcripts go away doesn’t mean we should ignore the opportunities to improve paper‐based processes and make them as efficient as possible.
Consequently, with the opening of our Las Vegas Branch, we will be introducing a west coast transcript print and mail operation to augment our Chicago operations. Using sophisticated and proven technology borrowed from the financial services industry, Credentials can fold, insert, seal and post paper transcripts at amazing throughput rates with virtually perfect accuracy. Moreover, by selecting regional print centers on the basis of the destination zip code, Credentials can minimize postal mail delivery times for paper transcripts. Together with electronic transcript rendering, this approach seamlessly yields what we call “transcript delivery optimization”. In other words, from both a cost and service standpoint the whole process becomes “optimized”.
True. Somewhere down the road, these highly automated operations will begin to wind down. Not a problem. Just like the payments industry, the evolution toward electronic transcripts will be steady, predictable and gradual enough to downsize these operations in an orderly fashion. Most importantly, our client institutions will be able to remain focused on more important issues and strategies as Credentials manages the migration, all the while “optimizing” performance and customer service for students, alumni and our client institutions.
As Elvis said, “Viva Las Vegas!!!"