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Partner Resources
updated: April 7, 2020

Official Transcript Production during Remote Operations

Many offices are suddenly working from home during the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. Processing official transcript requests is one area where some institutions were operating a manual, paper-based transcript process and are unsure of the best ways to continue to provide service to students while maintaining the security of the student record. Even if your institution utilizes a third-party company for requests, you may still be fulfilling these through paper transcripts mailed from your university to the designated recipient.

The following FAQ format was developed based upon questions received at AACRAO since the outbreak and subsequent sudden shifts of records professionals now working remotely. It is intended as a quick and timely reference for an exceptional time. For more complete information, consult AACRAO’s Academic Record and Transcript Guide 2020.

Q: Is it okay to have our SIS “print” the transcript to a college issued email account and from there send it via encrypted email to a recipient?
A: IF your student information system (SIS) has the ability to “print” a transcript directly to a secure college issued email account AND you have the ability to 1) send a FERPA compliant encrypted email (e.g., Zix, Barracuda, VIrtu, Biscom, NeoCerfified and others*) to the recipient and 2) the request for the transcript came in through normal channels then this practice is sufficiently secure.

*these companies are just examples for the purpose of this guidance. AACRAO is not recommending one solution over another. We suggest you work with your IT department to select a solution that works for your institution.


Q: Is it OK for me to access student records from my home using a personal device/computer?
A: If you need to use a personal device to access your student information system (SIS) when not on campus, make sure there is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) installed. You should consult your institution’s IT department to inquire about this and about any additional security steps you can take to minimize the risk of hacks or other theft of personal information that can occur when using personal devices.

Q: Can I print transcripts from my home printer?
A: If at all possible, it is best to have a staff member go into the office and process any transcript requests that may be in the queue. The security you have established to protect secure paper supplies, use protected institutional equipment and limit exposure of student information are most likely far better in this environment than the one in your home. If that is not possible due to quarantines, locked buildings, etc., then make sure that you have taken all possible steps to safeguard supplies and information. Lock up tamper-resistant transcript paper in as secure a location as possible. That would be the same if you have a crimper or other device that places a raised seal onto the paper. Do not load any spreadsheets or files onto your personal device and clear the memory on your printer, if possible, after every batch printing job.

Q: Can I scan paper transcripts and email them to the recipient designated by the student?
A: In brief, no. First, scanning the transcript creates a copy of the document on your personal device and that makes it vulnerable to being compromised and/or stolen. The PDF records created by third-party providers are almost always encrypted and use highly secure measures, such as Adobe Blue Ribbon technology, to lock the PDF and minimize instances of tampering. Email is not a secure means of transmission and no unsecured student information should be transmitted using this medium.

While none of these options may be ideal, it is important to minimize the risk that student information could be compromised or that secure supplies, such as tamper-evident paper or a seal, could be stolen from a home office. Registrars who need to mail transcripts may need to consider a rotational system where one staff member with appropriate access goes into the office, prints and prepares the paper transcripts, and uses a postal meter or stamps to affix postage, then take the batch to the post office for mailing if the college or university mailroom is not operational.

Those staff who worked in records offices years ago before digital transcripts remember these processes from times when the institution would close, such as holiday breaks, and the steps taken to provide timely services to students while maintaining the security of their records. During this unprecedented time, these measures may need to be implemented on a temporary basis.

When normal operations resume, it is time to consider how your institution will implement a fully digital records system, so that you are better prepared the next time your staff may need to work remotely.