It’s amazing what we can do with a series of ones and zeroes. Modern technologies consisting of databases connected to interfaces that deliver functionalities that improve our day to day lives. The creative and imaginative ways in which we make meaning, offer services, engage, and even make predictions for future success are all predicated on a variety of technology-based solutions. In higher education, our use of technology has always run in step with the world around us. From the days of old when punch cards held reams of research to the present day when information is stored in data-rich, mobile accessible clouds, the student experience is directly connected to an institution’s technology.
Earlier this year, AACRAO Consulting found that West Virginia University had erroneously awarded 288 degrees. 29 recommendations were made to enhance WVU’s student academic records management. One of the recommendations was to create and appoint a university registrar position at WVU. It didn’t take very long for WVU to create a position description for the newly created Registrar position. 3 months later, WVU has appointed a Registrar to be the “official custodian of student academic records.”
I wish Dr. Steve Robinson all the best in his new position. It will be interesting to see how quickly he can counter the institutional-wide issues that led to inaccurate degree reporting / auditing. System-wide issues are extremely difficult to mend, regardless of the appointment of a centralized leadership position. It will take coalitions of folks working in conjunction with one another to create a more focused, error-free system of degree granting.
As I ponder this situation, I keep thinking about the role that academic and faculty advisors will need to have in order to fix things at WVU. Student Information Systems are wonderful tools for most folks in higher education, however, the components that academic advisors utilize are often lacking in terms of both function and usability. Without solid systems for academic advisors, degree audits and degree granting at WVU will still be an issue…
Academic advisors tend to get cold sweats over this type of thing. Fortunately, the institution where I work has a pretty solid degree audit system that is bulwarked by a solid system of humans. Class substitutions and transfer course equivalencies are part of my daily routine. Plus, I have my abacus at the ready in case of emergencies.
The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers found that West Virginia University awarded 288 degrees despite discrepancies in credit requirements.
The investigation began in the wake of a degree scandal at the University in which Heather Bresch, Gov. Joe Manchin’s daughter, was inappropriately awarded an Executive Master’s in Business Administration degree.
Along with Bresch’s degree, AACRAO Consulting found that 27 students in the WVU College of Business and Economics, and 261 additional undergraduate degrees either fell short of credits or had other discrepancies.
Degree requirement discrepancies stemmed from several sources, said Jonathan Cumming, assistant vice president of Graduate Education. The discrepancies originated because the records-keeping process was incomplete. Credit-hour deficiencies could also be due to errors in class substitutions or mistakes made in recording transfer credits.
The mission of AACRAO Consulting’s work at WVU is to “provide professional development, guidelines and voluntary standards to be used by higher education officials regarding the best practices in records management, admissions, enrollment management, administrative information technology and student services,” according to the final report.
The final report from AACRAO Consulting is quite lengthy but it’s worth reading as it provides a lot of insights into what went wrong at WVU. The Registrar’s position at WVU was probably fast-tracked at light speed. The position description is already online! One of the requirements for the position is that your degree cannot be one of the 288….just kidding ;-)
Lastly, I wanted to point out this quote from the AACRAO Consulting report: “Many faculty find the Banner system difficult to use, instead opting to keep records in paper form.”
SunGard Higher Education, ARE YOU LISTENING? The interface for Banner is horrendous. I would say that it’s horrible, but I don’t want to insult horrible! Let it be known that if anyone can create an interface/system that does what Banner does, and is actually friendly to humans, the higher education institutions of the world will grant you immortality and a cash prize!