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The Registrar's Contribution to Student Success - Is a Transcript Needed?

November 14, 2016

A comprehensive definition of student success always results in campus wide discussion among faculty, administrators and other stake holders. Elements consistently found in these discussions and definitions always include measurement and progression through curricular plans, achieving certificate or degree completion, achievement across multiple schools and the ability to demonstrate academic success through official credential documents. The Registrar is in the center of each of these important student success issues.

The academic transcript is a representation of the student’s academic record including enrollment history, degrees awarded, and achievements while enrolled at the college or university. The transcript generally includes detail regarding dates of attendance, courses and grades, enrollment status, and degrees and certificates awarded. The transcript often includes information about grade point averages, minors/options, academic performance (honors or probation) and special awards and achievements outside of the classroom.

The physical format and presentation of transcripts varies greatly. Most are presented in chronological order by semester enrolled. Many include detailed and often cryptic data such as the 25-character course description! The presentation of the transcript is typically a result of the software system producing the transcript and not the needs of the recipient that is consuming the transcript. These school-to-school variations place an undue challenge as the recipient attempts to unlock the information presented in the documents.

Recipient needs vary. Some employers may elect to view the applicant’s performance in specific courses, or the student’s performance progression from freshmen to senior year. In these examples the employer needs to examine the course detail presented in the traditional academic transcript. 

But other employers may be more focused on the evidence that a student completed a degree program; the course details may be secondary in their hiring decision. Such recipients are better served with a verification of degree document which specifically certifies the completion and awarding of degrees, minors, and certificates.

Other recipients have no interest in courses, grades or programs and are more focused on enrollment status. For example, a family’s auto insurance or health insurance provider needs to know if a student is enrolled full-time, part-time or not enrolled to provide student discounts on insurance coverage. The detail presented on the transcript is irrelevant to this type of recipient. A statement of enrollment verification for the current or past semesters is much more meaningful.

Within the United States, the diploma is considered as a ceremonial document, suitable for framing and proudly displayed at the graduate’s home or place of employment. By contrast, in many other nations the diploma represents the official document that signifies completion of a degree. As such, international students often request duplicate copies of their diploma along with an apostille.

Affixing the apostille is a complex process of certifying the authenticity of a document (typically a diploma) and is required by countries that participated in The Hague Convention of 1961. The process begins with a local Notary Public affixing their seal and signature.  The appropriate state agency then affixes their seal signifying the authenticity of the local notary. The U.S Department of State and the consul of the destination country represent the final action steps in the process. Completion of this process generally involves both the student and school officials.

Within recent years, some diploma providers have begun offering certified diplomas by which the authenticity of the diploma is provided through digital certificates. While these digitally certified diplomas are still new, their use and adoption rate is growing at a measurable rate. The expectation is these digital certified diplomas will replace the apostille process.

The student’s success is typically measured by the completion of specific programs of study. The Registrar is at the center of providing the appropriate credential, on behalf of the student, to the designated recipient needing verification of enrollment or program completion. The Registrar’s capability to provide the best certification document at the right time is of paramount importance to the student and in establishing a positive reputation for the school. 

In the final article of this series, I will discuss the issue of the transcript fee.

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