Elon University’s Experiential Transcript — What the Future Looks Like

For more than 20 years, North Carolina’s Elon University has offered some form of experiential transcript that documents how students engage outside of the classroom. But it wasn’t until 2014 that Elon combined this record with the academic transcript. Students and prospective employers alike are delighted by the change.

“[Employers] really liked the idea of having more information to make a decision as to whether or not a candidate was a good fit for their company. Our experiential transcript does that,” says Elon registrar Dr. Rodney Parks, speaking in a recent interview.

Dr. Rodney Parks

He’s referring to how Elon’s transcripts are visually distinct, revealing not only how well students perform academically during their time at the university, but also the hours and effort put into research, internships, global learning, and community service. Employers can use the document to get a better sense of a recent grad’s leadership potential or rough competency in a given field, among other things.

A Crash Course in the Co-Curricular Movement

Elon isn’t the only university to offer experiential transcripts. Furman University and Western Governors University take a similar approach1. The University of Alabama, Purdue University, and Augustana College also offer a “co-curricular” transcript that describes activities that go ungraded, which includes additional information about significant projects completed during a student’s four-year tenure2. Having these experiences documented and certified is supposed to help students prove their worth in a tough job market in which even experienced candidates are judged by how well they perform in college.

What distinguishes Elon’s transcript is that experiences and academic performance combine to provide what Parks called “a complete picture” of the student journey, including skills and competencies earned. Elon has partnered with Parchment to bring the new format to life in digital form.

“Back in 2013, we had this vision of being able to extend the transcript. Parchment was the only vendor that was willing to say, sure, we can figure out creative ways to allow Elon to actually release more than just the academic transcript,” Parks says.

By the next year, when students were first able to order both experiential and academic transcripts as a single document, orders rose from just three experiential transcripts to more than 800.

“Experiential transcripts still account for about 20 percent of student orders,” Parks says.

Giving Employers What They Want and Helping Students Market Themselves

Employers, too, are showing increasing interest in the combined transcript. Parks says that nearly 200 companies are participating in an ongoing survey about what they’d like to see from Elon students.

“Resumes aren’t telling the whole story,” Parks says, noting recent data that shows more than half of resumes contain some falsifications3. Worse, more than 70 percent of college students surveyed said they would lie on a resume to get a job they wanted. USA Network’s ongoing drama, “Suits,” has turned this truism into a plot point.

“Employers appreciate that we’re giving them a document loaded with data that’s fully certified,” Parks says. “They can be more confident that they’re getting the skills they’re hiring for — even if the candidate is just out of college.”

That’s a crucial advantage for Elon students, and Parks says it changes the way they market themselves. One senior who works in Parks’ office, Alexander, says his certified experiences helped him land a post-graduate internship with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO).

“One of the first things [AACRAO Executive Director] Mike Reilly asked for was his experiential transcript,” Parks says.

What the Future Brings

As this post goes live, Elon University students are preparing to receive their first diplomas, digitally. They’ll also have the ability to order fully visual transcripts that include summaries of both co-curricular experiences and academic performance. Parchment is handling purchasing and distribution to Elon students, while Parks works with Parchment co-founder and CEO Dr. Matthew Pittinsky on new ways to extend both the transcript and other credentials.

“How do we embed competencies into the [transcript]? How do we embed a published paper? How do we embed a job description of the internship that the student has completed? If we can get to that point, then employers in the snap of a finger can look at this visualization and get an understanding of who that student is,” Parks says.

Longer term, Parks says he and his team will work with Parchment to create fully interactive documents that become part a lifelong portfolio of courses completed, skills earned, and experiences lived. “I think there’s tremendous potential in moving forward with this technology.”


  1. http://www.aacrao.org/conferences/conferences-detail-view/experiential-transcripts—the-aacrao-tech-and-transfer-conference
  2.  https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=universities%20offering%20co-curricular%20transcripts
  3. http://www.statisticbrain.com/resume-falsification-statistics/

Five International Facts About Parchment

Today, at the fifth annual meeting of the Groningen Declaration Network in Cape Town South Africa, Parchment announced its partnership with China Higher Education Student Information and Career Center (CHESICC), an authoritative institution directly under the Chinese Ministry of Education.

South Africa? China? Didn’t know that Parchment was international, did you? Let’s take a look at these five international facts about Parchment:

  1. In May 2015, Parchment CEO Matthew Pittinsky provided his “John Hancock”, making Parchment a signatory to the Groningen Declaration, a set of principles focused on improving student data mobility. This international document seeks common ground to best serve both the academic and professional mobility needs of learners around the world by bringing together key stakeholders in the Digital Student Data Ecosystem.
  2. Today’s announcement with CHESICC enables Parchment Receive members to accept verified Chinese academic credentials electronically and securely through CHESICC.  The CHESICC/Parchment delivery service is now live following a beta period during which University of Nebraska at Omaha received student records from CHESICC through Parchment using the same processes and workflows with which they process domestic transcripts and related records.
  3. Since 2014, Parchment has been engaged with TrueCopy, a leading exchange platform for electronic transcripts in India, enabling Parchment Receive members to verify academic credentials from India.
  4. The CHESICC relationship further expands Parchment’s international network of credential issuers, already spanning 45 countries.
  5. Parchment joins other key stakeholders in the Digital Student Data Ecosystem this week in Cape Town, South Africa for the fifth annual meeting of the Groningen Declaration Network.


The Digital Evolution of Education

Education enthusiasts, have you ever wondered what our nation’s founding fathers would think if they were to visit a college campus today? How did we get from the first distance education course in 1840 to three-dimensional online learning in 2015? At Parchment, we were curious how education has evolved digitally so we decided to dig in. Our new infographic takes a chronological look back at the past, present and future of education – from the brick-and-mortar classroom to the digital one.



Earth Day: Silly Things That Are Still on Paper

That Earth Day is now in its 46th year and celebrated in an estimated 193 countries speaks to the progress we’ve already made in preserving the planet.1 Not only do we recycle more often and invest huge sums of money in sustainable energy, but there’s also a more targeted discussion about the risks of climate change happening in classrooms and governmental chambers around the world.

By many standards we’ve come a long way, but there’s so much more still to do. Top of the list should be reducing the extraordinary amount of paper we waste producing documents that could, and should, be digitized.

Waste Not, Want Not

Catalog Spree and Paper Karma teamed up in 2014 to document the scope of the problem. Their survey of public data found that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year.2 That wouldn’t be so bad if much of the printed material didn’t end up in the trash. Yet it does: Paper and cardboard accounted for roughly 27 percent of municipal waste in 2012. Chances are that ratio hasn’t moved much in the years since.

To get it down we’re going to have to rethink what deserves to be on paper. Here are six styles of documents that should be 100% digital within a few years, if they aren’t already.

Auto registration and insurance data. Why do police officers still ask for license and registration when the most up-to-date information (at least on registrations) is accessible via onboard computers in every cruiser? Forcing drivers to keep paper is repetitive, and when you think about the massive amount of paper used to send updated vehicle registration to every licensed vehicle owner who renews, the waste is a bit nonsensical.

Coupons. For some, couponing is like extreme sports. The rest of us either don’t get the newspaper, and therefore don’t get as many paper coupons as we used to, or can’t be bothered to take the time to search for relevant coupons when services such as Honey and RetailMeNot make it easy to find discounts online.3

Diplomas, transcripts, and certificates. These crucial documents follow you long after graduation yet aren’t portable until they’re made digital. We think that’s an essential addition, and it’s what we work on at Parchment every day. Already, thousands of schools today rely on Parchment to issue digital credentials through our platform. We expect many more issuing not only transcripts but also digital diplomas and professional certificates in the years to come.

Start Now

Making these documents digital won’t cure our paper addiction by next Earth Day, but it will likely get governmental agencies, department stores, office buildings and technology companies to rethink the concept of a “paper copy”. To go even further, we need to figure out how to get office workers to cut back on printing memos, emails, and the like. And yet any start is a good one.

In this case, digitizing the likes of catalogs, coupons, transcripts, and more would not only cut down on waste and clutter, it could also make the documents themselves more useful. Digital coupons could be automatically uploaded to a smartphone for capturing savings at checkout. And digital transcripts could give admissions professionals and potential employers 1-click access to contextual information for making more informed decisions. In that sense, prioritizing the planet isn’t just about living cleaner and healthier. It’s also about living smarter.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Day
  2. http://mashable.com/2014/04/22/earth-day-paper-infographic/#wAJoA7uhVOqJ
  3. http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/81-shoppers-conduct-online-research-making-purchase-infographic/208527




Diploma 2020: How Digital Technology Will Make Your Most Valuable Credential Even More Useful

Surely you remember the day you got your high school diploma? How about the day you graduated from college? The joy of marking these milestones tends to stay with us for decades.

And yet for all their intrinsic value — the feelings of accomplishment, the camaraderie of graduating with friends — diplomas also have practical meaning. They signify achievement, endurance, and in some cases, exceptional intelligence and skill. We tout them in face-to-face and online conversations, and highlight them in social spaces such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

So valuable are diplomas that there’s now a billion-dollar cottage industry serving fraudsters who’ll pay up to look as if they’re graduated from a prestigious institution1. That should worry us. As educators, students, administrators, and service providers we should be taking steps to preserve the sanctity of the diploma. We can do that and make the document itself more useful. First, we have to get paper out of the process.

A Paper Past is Giving Way to a Digital Future

For students entering a workforce that’s governed by digital technology, the diploma needs to be an online-accessible testimonial for the person who earned it. We won’t get there overnight, but at Parchment we’re already taking steps to make the diploma more accessible and secure, and thereby more meaningful for both students and their schools. By 2020, I expect the diploma to change in the following ways:

  1. It will live online. Students live online so the documents that matter to them should live online too. Diplomas don’t yet, but you wouldn’t think so to look at most Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. There, you’ll find participants claiming degrees from any number of prestigious institutions. Profiles rich with dates, logos, and degrees completed are meant to reflect a sense of collegiate achievement. Whether the perception is deserved is another matter entirely.
  2. It will be secure and verifiable. An expert forger with the right materials can fake a degree from just about anywhere. Digital diplomas aren’t so easily replicated. At Parchment we’re developing a system that allows for institutions to not only issue diplomas digitally but also mark them with metadata that verifies their authenticity. We don’t expect it to be long before LinkedIn, Facebook, and every other site that allows for claiming a diploma to ask for a verified copy before it can be added to your profile.
  3. It will have layers of additional data. Digital diplomas will be marked up with more than just security data. Creative institutions will add a variety of contextual, machine-readable information as well. Examples could include everything from total years in school to a student’s official graduation date, grade-point average, and if appropriate, class ranking.
  4.  It will be visual and interactive. Diplomas have always been a treat for the eye. In the future, we’ll make it even more so by making some parts of the document clickable. For example, the student with a double-major in physics and astronomy may have clickable links for both, allowing the viewer to see the coursework that went into earning those degrees.

The diploma has been a mark of achievement for generations. It still is, and I don’t expect that to change with efforts to make the diploma a digital-first document. But with fraud on the rise, our first priority as educators and administrators is to preserve the sanctity of this vital credential. The good news is we can do that and at the same time make the diploma itself more useful for students and for issuing institutions. And we can do it by 2020.

We’ll get there by making the diploma securely shareable. We’ll also make it verifiable and infuse it with data that preserves the integrity and brand of issuing institutions. Finally, we’ll make it visual and interactive to communicate more about the experience of the student who earned it. Will it be easy? No, but at Parchment we’re committed to realizing this future. We hope you’ll join us.

Matthew Pittinsky, Ph.D. is Chief Executive Officer of Parchment. He holds a B.S. in Political Science from American University, Ed.M. in Education Policy from Harvard University Graduate School of Education and a Ph.D. in Sociology of Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.


1.     https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2014/07/02/essay-diploma-mills

The Evolution of Education Credentials

Salary.com recently asked 1,500 people about the cost of higher education. Only 61 percent said it’s a good value while 35 percent specifically said that college isn’t worth the expense.1 Another 43 percent said a college degree isn’t necessary to succeed in life.2

Out of School, Not Yet Into the Workforce

Recent experience may be informing their responses. A briefing paper from the Economic Policy Institute3 found that 7.2 percent of recent college graduates were unemployed and 14.9 percent were underemployed — i.e., working, but not making enough to cover bills and repay loans — as of last May. Both of those numbers are up from just 5.5 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively, during the same period in 2007.

Dissatisfaction with the cost and relative value of higher learning has some people seeking new and cheaper pathways that connect the dots between study, classwork, and tangible workplace value. The credentialing process is changing in response.

Making Education Measurable

While it’s true that college is about much more than training to get a job, there’s no disputing that the economic disconnect facing recent grads, who are saddled with an average of $29,0004 in loans, has created a new reality in which students have become more interested in the actual ROI of higher education.

The shift comes as tailored learning options have begun to emerge. From associate certificates to Udacity’s heavily marketed “nanodegrees” to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), the variety of ways students can gain valued knowledge has blossomed in recent years. Members of the high school class of 2020 are just as likely to string together credentials that tell a story about their journey to mastery than they are to sign up for a four-year degree program.

Think of what that might mean. A student aiming for a computer science career could start with a nanodegree in Android application development, paid for by part-time work as a programming tutor to peers. Then, upon completion, she might apply to a prestigious four-year institution with a reputation for placing students in high-paying programming jobs.

Solving the Portfolio Problem

For this student and others like her, there is no silver bullet degree. She’s building a portfolio instead, and as such, needs an infrastructure that demonstrates the workplace value of all that she’s achieved as a student. We need three things in order to bring this idea to life:

  1.  A common format everyone — even a machine — can understand. Many industries use XML (eXtensible Markup Language) to render complex information such as contracts and financial statements in a standard digital format. Imagine if we did the same for credentials? Digital information in a diploma and accompanying transcript would be perfectly compatible with the completion data encoded in a nanodegree or MOOC certificate.
  2. Improved transferability between institutions. Right now, registrars are saddled with the task of decoding and awarding credits from courses completed elsewhere. The rise of alternative credentials will only make this process more difficult, unless we find ways to agree on common methods for classifying achievement. Recent efforts in this area include a call for what’s known as a Postsecondary Achievement Report, or PAR.
  3. Digital standards that make assessment and sharing simple. Finally, we need to digitize the entire transcript and make it both secure and shareable using common technology. That way, any coursework, from any credentialing program, can be added to the system in order to provide a comprehensive, browser-accessible view of a student’s educational achievements.

While the four-year degree is still alive and well, there’s little doubt that the business of education is changing. We can make it better by giving students the infrastructure to compile certifications into a detailed, portable, and easily assessed portfolio that demonstrates mastery that employers will want to pay for.

Fortunately, much of the work needed to make this a reality is already underway. Now all we need is the will to complete it.


  1. http://www.salary.com/is-college-still-worth-the-cost/slide/2/
  2. http://www.salary.com/is-college-still-worth-the-cost/slide/3
  3. http://www.epi.org/publication/the-class-of-2015/
  4. http://www.fastcompany.com/3030826/the-future-of-work/is-college-still-worth-it

The End of the Paper Chase: 3 Institutions That Turned the Registrar’s Office Into a Revenue Generator

At Parchment, we’re betting 2016 is the year of the eTranscript. Why? How does cutting costs and streamlining efficiency sound? That’s the kind of success hundreds of universities across the country are finding when they shake off antiquated traditions and go digital with eTranscripts. And the proof is in the pudding: a recent study found that switching from paper to digital dropped per-transcript administrative costs by 35 percent, on average, while also increasing revenue.

We asked registrars at Kansas State, Furman University in Greenville, SC, and Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC) to share their experience switching to Parchment eTranscripts. Here’s what they had to say.

Kansas State: Profiting from New Traditions

At Kansas State University, the transcript window was an antiquated campus site, in need of an update. For the KSU registrar’s office, closing “the window” ushered out a traditional practice and created new opportunities (and a bigger budget) to more efficiently and effectively serve students, in a way befitting the 21st century: digital.

“Tearing down an on-campus icon is never an easy choice — and the transcript window certainly was just that – but, once we identified the benefits, as a team we couldn’t pass up the chance to serve students in new ways while also cutting costs,” said Barbara Nagel, KSU Assistant Registrar for Office Operations.

Today, Kansas State’s Customer Services Support Center exists where the transcript window once stood. The result is a one-stop shop for students with complicated administrative inquiries, issues, or problems, especially when it comes to transcripts. For these sensitive matters the university has taken a staged approach. Students use Parchment to login online anytime, between classes, at the library, etc., and order transcripts from the university’s student information system. Documents are then made available for pickup during regular hours at the Service Center.

Early feedback was that students loved the more streamlined process, especially since it ate up less time in their busy schedules. Five  years into implementing Parchment, KSU has reduced the headcount for handling transcript-related requests from two full-time employees,one part-time worker, and one temporary staff member to one full-time employee ..

“If we could have known how greatly this system would improve our students’ lives, then we would have closed the transcript window years ago!” says Nagel.

Furman: Fast Service Makes Fans

Furman may be an order of magnitude smaller than KSU — just 3,000 are enrolled most years — but it’s about as active as an institution can be when it comes to serving its students. Associate Dean and University Registrar Brad Barron and his team have delivered over 20,000 eTranscripts over the last three years.

“We went from zero to 100 percent [adoption] in less than four months,” Barron said of student enthusiasm for the Parchment system, which processes and sends eTranscripts in 30 minutes, down from the four to six hours it took under the old paper-based system. Faster delivery leads to handling more requests, which leads to more revenue for Barron’s department and a stronger relationship between the department and its students.

Texas A&M at Corpus Christi: More Data, More Revenue

Like Furman and KSU, Texas A&M at Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC) wasn’t meeting students’ needs with its paper-based transcript system. Manual processes were bottlenecking the system, keeping administrators from filling more than 17,000 annual requests in a timely fashion. Registrar Michael Rendon turned to eTranscripts via Parchment Send to solve the problem, and the results proved better than expected.

“With Parchment, we can accept requests 24/7, collect payment almost immediately, and deliver certified eTranscripts that look the same as my paper transcripts, from the watermark to my signature,” Rendon said. Student adoption — and, correspondingly, departmental revenue — is up significantly as a result.

A Digital Future for All

Despite the obvious benefits of eTranscripts, the Parchment survey found that only 43 percent of institutions send them on behalf of students. Nagel sees that changing, and her peers would appear to agree: 72 percent of registrars and administrators polled said that digitizing transcripts with Parchment makes their lives easier. Even more (76 percent) believe that students are also better served. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why so many eTranscript adopters report higher revenues and lower costs. By implementing eTranscripts, departments are able to become more efficient, potentially adding services to their offerings and becoming the one-stop shops for students from the beginning to the completion of the transcript procurement, finalization and sending process.

“When we look back and think about how we used to manage transcripts with a manual paper process, we wonder how we ever did it,” says Nagel.

Faster Financial Aid: 3 Ways to Ensure a Smoother Application Process for Students

For the millions of American families banking on financial aid to send kids to college, applying for funds early can mean the difference between getting a hefty payout — or getting nothing at all. In the age of tech, high school counselors and registrars in school districts and institutions across the country have a unique opportunity to educate these families on simple, actionable steps to increase success in applying for and securing financial aid, without the hassle.

The High Cost of College

The stakes are high. Today’s tuition ranges from $31,231 for private, four-year institutions to $9,139 for state schools and $22,958 for out-of-state residents attending public universities, the College Board reports.1 Such huge sums may be out of reach for the average American family earning the U.S. median of $52,250 in annual household income.2

To their credit, institutions and agencies are well aware of the gap and disperse an estimated $150 billion annually3 to help families cover tuition, which has increased by roughly 15 percent since 2008. Families and students will naturally gravitate towards (and recommend) administrators and counselors who can help with claiming an outsized portion of those funds.

Federal aid, in particular, often goes to those who file early, which is why Edvisors says4 students shouldn’t wait to file financial disclosure forms.

Ready … Set … Prepare!

To be clear, this doesn’t mean you should be advising high school freshman to start haphazardly applying for scholarships. Why? While college admissions staff may have good reason to get students committing early, counselors should remind students that Universities encourage early applicants because they limit their bargaining power (ability to negotiate with the financial aid office to get a better financial aid package) by committing before they have to. By contrast, students who get acceptances from multiple universities can generally negotiate better aid packages.

Counselors can help aid-seeking families by reviewing the options and highlighting the deadlines. As a refresher, here are three things you’ll want to have in hand when helping students in their search for college cash:

  1.  Applications for relevant scholarships. While it’s generally too early for a freshman or sophomore to apply for merit aid, it can be a good idea to work with students to search for scholarships you’ll want to apply for later. FastWeb has a free search engine that scours some 15 million awards and matches your student’s profile to the best sources for funding.
  2.  Fill out the FAFSA. Also known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, this standard form is widely used for determining eligibility for needs-based awards such as Pell Grants or the Federal Supplement Educational Opportunity Grant, or FSEOG. High school seniors need to keep a close eye on the filing deadlines since some states begin accepting FAFSA applications in January. Others wait until March, but in every case those seniors who file early do better. According to Edvisors, students who file the FAFSA in March or before tend to get more than twice as much grant funding as those who wait until April or later.
  3.   Get your transcript ready. Whether you’re talking about college admissions offices or private foundations, most awarding institutions are going to need to review your records before giving aid. Parchment’s portal is particularly useful in this regard because counselors and students can access transcripts that are constantly updated in real-time and accessible from any browser. Ask your registrar or records officer if digital transcripts are available to you. And if not, why?

With college costs rising fast, the competition for scholarship money and federal and state aid has never been fiercer for students. Ensure your students are ready to act by educating them on the tools available to get ahead of the game, track deadlines and be ready to act with a prepared transcript. The faster they move, the more likely they’ll be to cash in – and they’ll have you to thank!





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