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Focusing on Service in the Registrar's Office - Part 4: The Sphere of Influence

April 26, 2017
A few years ago, a professional development opportunity was available to Registrars.  During its tenure, the Registrar’s Summer Institute at Aspen enrolled nearly a thousand individuals from Registrar offices at hundreds of schools.  One of the first activities of the Institute was to examine the role of the Registrar. This dynamic discussion occurred each year and involved different participants.  The most interesting aspect was the consistent results that were identified year-after-year.  The Registrar’s sphere of influence was defined along three dimensions.

1.  Internal to the Registrar’s Office

As a manager of the office, the Registrar has duties and responsibilities associated with most organizational managers: staffing, budget, stewardship, organizing, leading, controlling, planning, etc.   Due to the unique nature of the role, there are many specific additional responsibilities for the Registrar such as:

  •   FERPA – There is an ongoing need to ensure that staff understand their roles and obligations to the school in the proper enforcement of FERPA regulations. While this responsibility extends beyond the Registrar’s Office, the Registrar has the obligation to instill both knowledge and awareness of the do’s and don’ts related to this legislation.
  •   Service – Unlike academic departments and faculty roles of teaching and research, the Registrar is a provider of service to students, alumni, parents, faculty, and other members of the school community. There is a special and unique obligation to instill a service approach to all staff.
  •   Staff Development – Many of the roles within the Registrar’s Office are specialized. The Registrar can implement staff development plans to prepare staff for advancement and promotion. Someone is going to prepare future staff – the question is will the Registrar rely on some other school to prepare the next new-hire, or will the preparation be internal to the office among the current staff.
  •   Technology – The Registrar is likely not responsible for the technology planning at the school. However, the Registrar’s Office is easily the largest single consumer of technology services and functions. Whether the issue is new RFP implementation, student portals, or service provider contracting, the impact on the Registrar’s Office is critical and measurable.

2.  Campus-wide

The Registrar holds responsibility to the campus community beyond the boundaries of the Registrar’s Office.  Some of these more common responsibilities include:

  •   Curriculum – At most schools, the curriculum is a faculty driven process; courses and programs are defined by the faculty and rightfully so. However, there are many administrative components of delivering the curriculum: Are registration pre-requisite conditions properly implemented; does the degree audit properly reflect completion requirements; does the semester course offering only include approved courses, issuing program completion credentials (diplomas/certificates); and so on. The Registrar has opportunity and obligation to influence many aspects of the schools’ curricular offering.
  •   FERPA – As mentioned earlier, these obligations permeate many aspects of the school. The Registrar is typically the “FERPA Officer,” responsible for training, interpretation, and problem resolution.
  •   Enrollment Management – Regardless if the school has a formally defined enrollment management structure, the Registrar is responsible for support actions such as course offering planning, classroom scheduling, implementing course articulation agreements, visiting/exchange student programs, and withdrawal and re-enrollment procedures.

3.  Engagement with the Academy

Despite the exciting rivalries on the athletic fields, the Higher Education sector continually demonstrates an attitude of sharing and collaboration.   For example,  the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, which includes the Big 10 Conference schools plus the University of Chicago  have multiple birds-of-a-feather constituent meetings where best practices are discussed and shared.

Another exemplary organization available to all Registrars is the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers (AACRAO).  Through its state, regional, and national meetings, AACRAO provides a forum to present new technologies, learn about changing legislative environments, discuss emerging best practices, and foster professional development from peers.  Attending these meetings is an excellent way to engage Registrar Office staff and presenting at these meetings and serving on committees is even more engaging and professionally rewarding.

In addition to conference organizations and AACRAO, there are many opportunities for the Registrar to engage across the Academy.  These may be with standards bodies such as the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC), EDUCAUSE, Internet2, and many other similar organizations.  Also, there are persistent opportunities to engage with software system providers at their regional and annual conferences.


In the next article, I will examine Constituent Relationship Management systems.

Part 1: The User Experience
Part 2: Continuous Quality Improvement
Part 3: One-Stop Student Service
Part 4: The Sphere of Influence
Part 5: Constituent Relationship Management
Part 6: Staffing and Organizational Structure

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