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The Comprehensive Student Record: What to Include, and Why

A new generation of digital credentials has made it possible to not only track grades and GPA but also show the work behind the scores and highlight extracurricular activities that reveal skills never before tracked on a transcript. Educators from around the country are in discussions regarding how to make the best use of the available technology, settling on an idea that’s come to be known as the Comprehensive Student Record (CSR) — an all-inclusive account of in-school performance, delivered in a way that’s directly relatable to recruiters searching for skilled hires.

Bridging an Information Gap

We recently polled 1,015 students of varying education levels and found the majority believe adding advanced digital features to their transcripts and diplomas would be either “extremely useful” or “very useful” for finding a job and starting a career.

Some features rated higher than others:

  • 76% of all respondents believe the ability to transfer verified credentials to an employer or other universities in a single package would be very or extremely useful
  • 71% want competency-based credentials that certify skills learned.
  • 69% want shareable credentials for posting to professional networks such as LinkedIn.
  • 67% want “clickable” credentials that reveal details about their academic experiences.
  • 63% want to be able to view credentials on a mobile device.

Our new survey backs up what we’ve heard from students in the past. In 2015, 60% of graduates surveyed wanted to share their diploma on social media sites to improve marketability (37%), share school pride (20%) or for verification of their achievements (18%). Seventy-one percent of those surveyed said digital credentials boost their marketability to potential employers.

The findings come as educators, administrators, registrars, counselors, and others advocate ways to better arm students entering the workforce. We’ve yet to see a consensus, but there’s already broad agreement regarding the need for credentials that are digital, shareable, and reflect a broad range of skills learned.

Pressure to Improve

Kevin Krueger is one of the leading voices arguing for a credential overhaul in the form of the CSR, and with good reason. He’s president of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), which is teaming with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) to develop models for the CSR in a project funded by the Lumina Foundation. Finding the right mix of academic and out-of-the classroom experience to reflect on a common CSR is of central concern to Krueger.

“Five years ago, university students would go through four years of school and then create a resume their senior year. What we know now is that’s not good enough; the career planning process should start at admissions,” Krueger said in an interview at Parchment’s second annual Summit on Innovating Academic Credentials, held in March in Washington, DC.

Think of it as a call to action to help overburdened students and their parents. Data from the College Board put increases in tuition and fees at around 3% annually in recent years. Trouble is, graduates are entering a job market in which starting salaries are expected to rise by an average of just 4% — and that’s the best result in a decade, according to a recent survey from Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute. Giving grads credit for real-life skills earned as well as academic performance could prove crucial in their efforts to land better-paying jobs upon matriculation.

The ABCs of the CSR

What should the CSR include? Survey respondents singled out a comprehensive and accurate reflection of academic performance in a digital credential as their top priority, with 78% deeming it either “extremely useful” or “very useful.” Detailed descriptions of academic undertakings ranked next with 69% ranking it “extremely useful” or “very useful” while 66% want a CSR that discusses completed internships and other forms of student employment. No other features scored above 60% of the field. The message? Grads want classroom achievement to count when it comes to competing in the marketplace.

“Organize [college experience and achievement] in such a way that it would allow an employer to sort or search on a set of criteria or competencies, in the same way, you can on LinkedIn, and you have a companion document to a resume that demonstrates the learning behind the degree,” NASPA’s Krueger says, speaking to the need.

Demonstrating value in the form a Comprehensive Student Record that documents not only grades but also challenges overcome, learning milestones achieved, interpersonal strengths observed, and verifiable skills earned could alter the equation and better prepare grads to fight for space in a competitive job market.

Watch the Webinar:
The Comprehensive Student Records Project Overview and Updates from UMUC and UCO.

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