Transcripts in a Modern Era

Fixing the broken system of academic transcript data.

GUEST COLUMN | by Elan Amir

Students, or anyone who has been a student, have a data problem, and it’s one they may not even know exists. The massive data set of student transcript information in the US is largely inaccessible to the individuals it is designed to benefit.

While one would assume students should have knowledge of who, when and how their transcript and other academic data is being used, this is not always the case. One would think students should have unencumbered access to their transcript data, but today’s system makes it difficult to obtain.

‘The benefits of enabling access to academic data are vast.’

Transcript and other academic data is accumulated in centralized databases. This data is essentially being held hostage, with a distinct lack of transparency, access and potential inaccurate information. The current system is broken and flawed.

Now more than ever, we need a progressive model that democratizes access to academic transcript data for the benefit of students, recent grads and businesses alike.

A Key Question

One key question I want to address is exactly why this lack of transparency, access, and accuracy is causing a problem. Let’s talk numbers. Currently, the organizations involved in the student loan system maintain and control 97% of all data for students that are enrolled in US colleges and universities. This data includes everything from where a student is or was enrolled, to what their degree(s) is/are, to their GPA. In total, these students number close to 17 million undergrads nationwide in a given year. Given the database transcript data is stored in is a decade old, there is a massive trove of this academic information stored out of sight.

Accuracy and Transparency Issues

Not only do these central organizations make access to academic transcript data difficult to come by, but the reports they issue for students are often error prone. In the student loan case, these errors can cost students thousands of dollars, as the reports are tied to borrower interest calculations. Essentially, the next wave of young consumers in our economy are being under-served by a system that lacks both transparency, accountability, and accuracy. 

Addressing Accessibility 

The benefits of enabling access to academic data are vast. On the consumer side, fixing this problem will empower students, allowing them to wield the very data they create for their own wellbeing. On the innovation front, businesses will be able to unlock and create a wealth of resources for student and commercial use. For example, alternative data metrics can be used for determining credit measures, or recruiters can use this data to vet a candidate’s skill set resulting in a more efficient hiring process. The opportunities to revolutionize this space are endless. This has been proven in other industries such as financial services through services provided by Plaid and other API technologies. 

Today’s Economy

In today’s economy data drives everything. Modern businesses have focused on sifting through the huge trove of consumer data today’s technology provides to make decisions. For many millennials and Gen Z, academic data generated after four years at a university represents 20-25% of their lives.

That percentage spread over 10 years of past students, 17 million currently enrolled undergraduates, in addition to graduate students, creates an enormous data set that is essentially inaccessible, potentially inaccurate given the lack of student review, and used without consent by the person who generated it in the first place.

The end result is also stifling the businesses attempting to provide new products and services to these young consumers.

We need to ensure that we are using this data to expand opportunities for young adults – which academic data can do – but it must be used the right way. Student transcript data needs democratized access that empowers the consumers it affects, accuracy in the way it is stored, and transparency from the organizations holding control over the keys.

Elan Amir brings a unique combination of management, strategy and technology expertise, leading organizations from start-up to scale. Before joining MeasureOne, Elan served as Chief Product & Technology Officer at SpringboardAuto.com, a SaaS-based auto-finance company serving consumers and financial institutions, and at Prosper Marketplace, a leading marketplace lending company. Prior, Elan served nine years as CEO of Bivio Networks, a cyber-security solutions provider. Elan received his Ph.D. and MS in Computer Science, and a BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from UC Berkeley. Connect with Elan on LinkedIn.

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