Originally published on InContext, a Lexmark website. 

Just a few years ago, Bloomsburg University, one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher education, was busy reinventing the wheel every time they received a new transfer student transcript. The admissions office was committed to using the course articulation database in PeopleSoft Campus Solutions to create course transfer equivalency rules, but the process required an admissions counselor to manually type in every course from every transcript…even if it was the same courses and same institutions as the last 100 transcripts processed.

With 18 percent of the University’s 9,650 students coming in as transfer students, that’s a lot of wheel-reinvention.

The department also employed two processors who scanned transcripts and updated student pages in PeopleSoft. The entire process was incredibly manual, and the turnaround time for getting a transfer credit evaluation report back to the student applicant was a lengthy four to six weeks.

Opportunity: Leveraging automation to accelerate transcript evaluation time

Transfer students are some schools’ best-kept secret. They’ve already applied to and succeeded at another institution, so the retention rate is often higher than in the freshman class, as several studies show. Making transfer students a high priority in the admissions and records offices is an initiative with high ROI and ongoing benefits both for individual students and for your school’s retention and graduation rates.

That’s exactly the initiative Bloomsburg University undertook when deciding to automate their laboriously manual transcript process. Their goal was to continue to leverage their PeopleSoft Campus Solutions investment with course articulation rules, continue to receive both paper and electronic transcripts, automatically image transcripts into the system and capture transcript data without templates.

“Without templates” deserves an explanation. Since Bloomsburg University accepts transcripts from 1,300 feeder schools, they were looking at building around 2,000 transcript templates (many schools have different online and paper versions) and employing someone to continue to maintain the templates.

Instead, Bloomsburg University opted to deploy a template-free solution from Lexmark Enterprise Software. With template-free data extraction from paper or electronic college and military transcripts, ICT could be deployed quickly (in just four months in this case) without the ongoing expense of template maintenance.

Transcript process transformation

With ICT, the workflow in admissions and the student experience has been transformed. Transcripts are received electronically or via paper, put through ICT’s Classify-Extract-Verify process, and are ready for the admissions counselor to quickly review with course equivalency data from PeopleSoft already updated.

The new transcript turnaround time at Bloomsburg University is advertised as just two weeks, and decisions can often be made in a few days if the application is complete. With the ability to make better decisions faster, admissions counselors can spend more time recruiting and on other high-value projects rather than the mind-numbing data entry of the old days.

3 take-aways from the Bloomsburg transformation team

Thinking of deploying your own “transcripts transformation”? Bloomsburg University has three great tips for success:

  1. Start to move from paper transcripts to electronic transcripts. Electronic transcripts provide cleaner data; Bloomsburg University currently has about a 50/50 mix and is working with their feeder schools to moving to a higher percentage of electronic.
  2. Evaluate current processes and adopt best practices. Bloomsburg University didn’t have to evaluate their current process—it was obviously painful and time-consuming. But they did have an opportunity to look to the future and choose a solution that best fit their vision of a streamlined back office that supported excellent transfer student service.
  3. Support from upper administration is key. Data entry is a pain point for the person performing it, but not necessarily to management—unless that data entry is creating unnecessary expenses or roadblocks to meeting high-level goals in recruitment, enrollment and retention. Bloomsburg University’s transcript automation initiative originated with the admissions director, so they were fortunate to have full support from management.
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