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Securing Transcripts and Records When Schools Fail

In light of recent college and university closures, the higher education community must pay more attention to how students fare when their school shuts down. A sudden school closure can be incredibly disruptive for students, derailing their education and requiring them to navigate complex decisions regarding the transfer of credits, re-enrollment at another school, teach-out opportunities, and securing their academic transcripts and records for future use.

Bottom Line

In a such a large and diverse sector, some closures are inevitable. States and accreditors must ensure that student transcripts and records are preserved so that students do not suffer unnecessarily from their school’s misfortune.


Read Our Report

Securing Transcripts and Records When Schools Fail: How Accreditors and States Can Protect Students



In the chaos of a school closure, students may face tremendous obstacles retrieving their records from a registrar that is likely shedding staff and resources. These obstacles include extreme delays in transcripts processing, failure to transfer records to a new custodian, transcripts distributed with minor or significant errors, or, in some cases, the destruction of irreplaceable records.2Losing records can be devastating to students, financially, academically, and personally.3 For institutions that cease operations altogether, it is important that a system is set up so students can recover records immediately and into the future. Without access to academic records, former students will be unable to continue their studies by enrolling in a new institution, transfer credits, potentially support a closed school loan discharge application, or even apply for jobs.


Our Recommendations

  • Requiring Institutions to Protect Records Before a Crisis
    In records preservation, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Regardless of the specific policies implemented by states and accreditors, no measures will be fully effective if implemented only once an institution is in crisis.
  • Ensuring that records are stored in safe, independent repositories
    When considering where to store records from closed schools, a central repository has obvious advantages, not least that it avoids relying on a failing institution itself.
  • Engineering future-proof solutions
    The transition to digital transcripts appears well underway and is likely to accelerate over time. Any solutions must consider how, or whether, existing statutes and regulations, or accreditors’ policies, may interact with emerging technologies. Services are designed to facilitate compliance with FERPA, the Higher Education Act and other laws—as laws change, the technology may need to adapt as well.


Further Reading

Michael Vasquez, The Chronicle of Higher Education: ‘They’re Not Even Making Sure They’re Correct’: Botched Transcripts Add Insult to Injury for Students Abandoned by Dream Center Closures

Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed: Digital Upgrade for Transcripts

Digital Credentials Consortium []