For high school and college administrators, transcripts are a measurement of output; a sort of receipt of learning services rendered. Students aren’t so transactional. For them, transcripts are the first professional documents they’ll need for a lifetime in and around the workforce.
Here are three ways students are using transcripts today, and why easy access to them matters more than ever:
- Employers are taking a greater interest in college performance. A 2013 survey of more than 200 institutions from the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that two-thirds of companies screened candidates by their grade point average (GPA)1. Yet they don’t stop there. Facebook is among the top-tier employers who look at the level of coursework students have completed in both high school and college before even considering them for a position2. Having access to an accurate transcript can be the key to getting hired. Kansas State University can attest to the need. The university switched to eTranscripts three years ago in order to better serve current students, yet it’s “former students who take the most advantage of the [system],” said Barbara Nagel, KSU Assistant Registrar for Office Operations.
- Higher education has changed. While some are heeding investor Peter Thiel’s advice to skip college and start a company, others are staying in school longer and switching institutions to find the best fit. Overall, the rate of individuals enrolled in undergraduate and post-baccalaureate programs jumped 52 percent between 1990 and 2014, the National Center for Education Statistics reports.3 Fast-shifting and interrupted collegiate experiences aren’t easily tracked, which explains why students want online access to academic records at all times.
- Students are already going digital. Young people aren’t waiting around for institutions to meet their demands. Instead, they’re hacking solutions — just what you’d expect from a generation that’s grown up with technology that’s built for on-demand service. (Think of Netflix and Google, for starters.) According to a recent Parchment survey, 55 percent of students say they scan paper transcripts in order to create shareable copies. Some went so far as saying they want to share their records on social media.
Serving Beyond the Classroom
All three points should serve notice to credentialing universities, yet a majority aren’t getting the message. The same Parchment survey in which students said they were already scanning transcripts to share online found that only 43 percent of awarding institutions will issue these documents digitally within the next five years, and that’s despite a majority of students — 58 percent, to be specific — saying that they want to access and share transcripts digitally.
University administrators need to be mindful of this gap. Registrars need digital tools if they’re to serve a generation of students who, thanks to technology, have never had more options when it comes to higher learning.