Helping to make college accessible and affordable for students statewide. That’s the mission of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC). And the organization has been very busy doing just that since 1957. One of their more recent initiatives? Going digital with student transcripts, achieved by partnering with Parchment in 2011. Now, based on the success of the program, ISAC is renewing their commitment to Parchment for another three years.
Why renew? We asked Abel Montoya, director of Outreach Operations. “Prior to working with Parchment, we could only send transcripts electronically within the state of Illinois,” he explains. “Initially with Parchment, we could send to any participating college in the Midwest. But with the renewal, we’re expanding our reach to any participating school in the U.S.” For Illinois public and private high schools that’s a big deal, broadening horizons and reinforcing the notion that college is a possibility for them. And because transcript requests are subsidized by ISAC, the service is free.
Montoya reports that he’s seen over 80K transcript requests for this school year. “Last year was over 90K, so we will surpass that, he says. “If we can get 100K transcripts sent, that’s a nice number. But as long as we keep improving year over year, that’s our goal.”
Why Parchment? Montoya says it’s about a quality product that works well and is user friendly. He’s seen usage grow statewide and for all different types of schools. Before Parchment, only 100 Illinois schools signed up to use the old system. But with Parchment, there are over 380 schools on board, quadrupling previous usage and exponentially increasing the number of students able to send eTransripts—and do it at no cost.
“Parchment levels the playing field,” Montoya says. “Not every school in Illinois has the budget to make electronic transcripts available to students. This initiative enables us to provide an eTranscript option to all students across the state. Once they are able to send transcripts electronically, it makes the process easier and less convoluted.”
Who benefits? Both students and the high schools they attend benefit with the electronic solution. With Parchment, students know the transcripts arrive at the colleges they applied to. So they’re not anxious or stressed, and they’re not calling to ask if their transcript went through. “Students are notified when a transcript is sent to a college and when it’s received”, says Montoya. “That also takes a big load off the counselors, who can concentrate on things other than answering student queries about deliveries and calling colleges about arrivals.”
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. “Counselors like the system and how easy it is to use,” Montoya says. “They like the report functionality that provides instant information about the number of transcript requests, how many have been sent, and any additional variables they want to put in there. They are very happy with the process.”
Let’s talk implementation. According to Montoya, implementing the the pilot was very easy, and the staff at Parchment was very helpful. “They’re cognizant of the demands and time constraints of the high school counselors involved in the initiative,” he says. “Parchment was very responsive and willing to help. So it was quite easy. They answered questions in a timely fashion, so it made for a really nice roll out. And Parchment has quite a lot of experience doing this with other states, so we knew what to expect.”
What does the future hold? “I think when all the high schools realize that students can send transcripts electronically for free anywhere in the U.S., we’ll have more high schools sign up,” predicts Montoya. Although some state high schools use other vendors, now they can just sign up with the state initiative and do it for free. What high school doesn’t welcome the opportunity to reduce costs?
One way to increase usage is to promote the initiative. “We promote the transcript exchange at our professional development workshops,” Montoya explains. “We do training for about 1,000 high school counselors, college personnel, and others throughout the year. And when our field staff members visit the schools, they also mention this initiative, along with all the others we offer.”
Of course, getting schools on board can be challenging at times. “Often times, the biggest challenge is that schools are resistant to change,” Montoya says. “They think it’s going to be more work, but we try to show them that in the long run it’s a lot less work for them. It will make their lives easier.”
And the bottom line? “We feel this initiative was worth the cost,” concludes Montoya. “It helps students who already have enough challenges make the process of going to college easier. Ultimately ISAC and Parchment have the same audience–the students–and the same goal in mind, which is to help them attain their educational goals.”
To learn more about the ISAC Transcript Exchange or to register to participate please reach out to Paul McMorrow at firstname.lastname@example.org