NU starts offering electronic transcripts

Jillian Sandler

Paper transcripts at Northwestern could become a thing of the past.

NU’s registrar’s office began offering students the option to purchase electronic transcripts April 26.

Electronic transcripts provide a cheaper and more efficient way for students to receive their grades, said Michele Neary, associate university registrar at NU.

Neary said the implementation of electronic transcripts was prompted by the University’s desire to adapt to the needs of prospective employers and graduate schools that generally prefer electronic versions of students’ transcripts to paper ones. She said she has also heard interest expressed from alumni.

“That’s where the industry’s going now,” Neary said.

Neary and Senior Assistant Registrar Oralia Gomez have been the primary facilitators behind the implementation of electronic transcripts. Jean Puga and Connie Vega, senior transcript and verification services clerks at the registrar’s office, have been monitoring the electronic orders.

Students can order electronic transcripts online via CAESAR through Avow Systems Inc., the host of the ordering system. Neary said instructions on the computer screen will prompt students to choose an email address to which a certified PDF version of the transcript will be sent. Within a few hours, the recipient will get an email containing a link that contains a passcode. A second email with the passcode will then be sent to the specified email address, after which the recipient can download the transcript.

Neary said the electronic version of the transcript contains a cover letter that gives instructions for the recipient to ensure that the file has not been altered in any fashion. It also contains a key detailing the meanings of different codes on the transcript.

Neary said electronic transcripts will be a cheaper and more immediate alternative for students. They cost $8, compared to the increased price of $10 for standard delivery of a paper transcript (paper transcripts previously cost $5) and $25 for immediate delivery, in which the transcript is sent out within a day of order placement.

Though the $8 price of electronic transcripts is an increase from the former $5 paper transcripts, Neary said it is still inexpensive compared to transcript prices at other Big Ten schools, which she said range between $12 and $15.

“It’s hard to determine how much money is spent to produce an individual transcript,” Neary said. “(Five dollars) was definitely not covering our cost,” she said.

Nevertheless, Neary said she believes the increase in cost will be a small price to pay for the increased efficiency of transcript distribution.

“We’re hoping that even though we raised the price that it will be worth the extra money,” she said.

In addition to reducing paper costs, Neary said she hopes once electronic transcripts become more prevalent, the transition will free up resources to work in other areas of the registrar’s office.

For some students, electronic transcripts will be especially beneficial when they are studying elsewhere in the United States or abroad, as an official record of grades is often necessary for students to enroll in certain courses and earn credit.

“I’m really excited to learn that I won’t have to keep track of a random piece of paper for four months,” said Weinberg sophomore Elise Mattenson, who will be studying abroad in Lima, Peru, this fall. “Apparently, it’s a really good idea to have an official transcript with me if I plan to take any advanced classes, which I probably will.”

Weinberg sophomore Aja Ringenbach, who will be participating in back-to-back study abroad programs in Barcelona this summer and Buenos Aires in the fall, said the system will help her take care of administrative requirements while off campus.

“It is a very sensible improvement of the system in that it is more cost-effective for all of us cash-strapped college students, plus it’s a great way to cut down on the amount of paper being used on campus, so it’s eco-friendly, too,” she said.

Neary added that students who are abroad will benefit greatly from the convenience of ordering electronic transcripts, as they can place their orders at any time, even when the registrar’s office is not open for business.

“They’re getting a lot more, a lot more quickly, at a lot cheaper price if they go the electronic route,” she said.

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