Delivery of transcripts to those who must |

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Southern New Hampshire University is giving students new access to key documents, including degrees. While it doesn’t write off the debt, the change is important.

Photos courtesy of Southern New Hampshire University

There are filing cabinets in the offices of Southern New Hampshire University that contain degrees. Many of them. They come largely from students who owe the institution balances.

For years, around 10% of those who have been conferred at SNHU have not been able to obtain them or the accompanying transcripts can be keys to applying for a job or higher education. While the average debt owed is $ 728, there are dozens of students who simply owe $ 150 in petition fees for graduates owed in the final months of their college journey.

While transcripts only cost $ 5 to $ 7 each (digital versus print), the money can add up quickly if multiple copies are needed. Paying them off during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge. But the biggest obstacle to the advancement of the students and their return to their SNHU experience with affection has been this debt. For some, it was too steep to overcome for them to simply not pay. And the credits they have earned are blocked.

In April, southern New Hampshire decided to end the cat-and-mouse game for this year’s class, waiving transcript fees and awarding diplomas to more than 2,200 students. The university is going through these cabinets and getting ready to send the rest to all of its alumni, though the process will take some time. While he does not resolve the debt, his policy is also not to withhold these documents.

“The pandemic has really opened our eyes to the burden it places on a student when they cannot get an official transcript to apply for a job,” said Deanna Bechard, registrar at Southern New Hampshire University . “It can be a vicious cycle. But if a student is able to get a transcript and get a job, they are more likely to be able to write a check to SNHU than not be able to get a job because they can’t. not get his transcript.


More from UB: 8 ways to support students with blocked credits


According to a report by Ithaka S + R in October 2020, the blocked credit issue is serious. The company notes that some 6.6 million former students (who are estimated to have a total of over $ 15 billion) could be entangled in this seemingly endless nationwide web. Ithaka reports that every institution surveyed has a failed credit policy. Several states also allow institutions to retain transcripts.

But some colleges like SNHU are changing these policies because previous versions were too rigid and counterproductive.

“At the end of working so hard, at the end of your university career, are we going to keep your diploma because you owe us money, instead of working your pay as you go?” said Béchard. “We met with the student account managers and submitted a proposal to management. It was approved pretty much instantly.

How they do it

Southern New Hampshire, which has had a huge presence of online learners since its transformation into New Hampshire College in 2001, has about 25,000 students per year, so by simple calculations, that’s about 2,500 degrees per year. are found in these cupboards. SNHU expects to grow to 30,000 students soon, so the math just didn’t add up.

“We used to think it was only $ 5 or $ 7,” Bechard says. “But when the pandemic hit and all these phone calls came in, it became clear that $ 5 and $ 7 for some of these students is a lot of money. If they want to go to five different graduate schools, it’s $ 25 if you do them all electronically.

So they decided to deal with this year’s students immediately and publish the transcripts and diplomas before opening the drawers and sifting through the documents from last month.

“We were comfortable with the assignments that have taken place in the last 30 or 60 days, as the address is probably the same,” Bechard says. “But those that happened last year, we want to verify that we have a valid address to send the diploma and transcript to.”

While this is a nice gesture from the college, it doesn’t come cheap. Since SNHU works with a third-party vendor who charges fees on transcripts, the costs are absorbed by SNHU, who orders them and pays them when requests are submitted. Still, removing transcript fees and holdbacks might be worth it for other colleges and universities, especially if they are trying to maintain a positive student experience and reach those who are struggling. According to the Ithaka S + R report, possession of transcripts also often affects people, most often from underserved populations.

“I don’t know if all the institutions are capable of making the same decision because there is a loss of income,” says Bechard. “But we were slightly successful in collecting debts. Honestly, this only led to conversations about getting a payment plan. Maybe if we had a high success rate [of collecting], but that just didn’t happen for us.

While debt was something southern New Hampshire couldn’t resolve, SNHU wanted to remain flexible and understanding, especially during the pandemic.

“Communication with students who owe money is to work on a payment plan,” Bechard says. “The last resort for any individual is to go to collections because it is going to have an impact on their credit. But at the end of the day, you have to pay for your education, so we want to give them the option to pay for even a small portion at a time. “

Still, this little homecoming gift has been good for the students and SNHU.

“The easy answer is that it absolutely works in terms of the student experience,” Bechard says. “It was the right thing for us to do.”

There are a myriad of considerations for colleges and universities as they navigate both the option of waiving transcript fees and holding or issuing degrees to those who still owe institutions money. These resolutions can be simpler than other blocked credit situations, where debt is owed and students have given up or stopped and left credit behind. Ithaka S + R, in its report, offers guidance for colleges looking to deal with the impact of these scenarios on their campuses, student populations, and reputation.


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