Because registrars have a unique, holistic perspective of how students, course offerings, or programs will be impacted by policy decisions, registrars should involve themselves to the extent possible in the policy-writing process.
“After all, they are tasked with systematically implementing and upholding policy,” writes Kimra Schipporeit, Director of Records and Registration at the University of Nebraska Kearney, in AACRAO’s 2018 publication Registrar’s Basic Guide. The registrar’s role in policy creation and enforcement varies among institutions, but most have the opportunity to affect policy creation, revision, or enforcement at some level.
Policies are key to maintaining fairness in procedures affecting students, faculty, and staff, and therefore must be:
Procedures derived from policies may be posted internally with access limited to the stakeholders who would require that particular guidance.
Key policies and procedures related to the registrar’s role
1. Student academic records. "A clear policy regarding which items from the record are appropriate to release for internal and external requests should be established and shared with all institutional offices that fulfill records requests,” Schipporeit writes.
This policy should be guided by what the institution has designated as personally identifiable information (PII) and directory information in compliance with FERPA, and it should identify which office or individual is responsible for updating designated common data elements.
2. Transcript processing. “What information is placed on the academic record is ultimately an institutional decision, but the registrar should be cognizant of national trends and best practices that should inform the local discussion and provide meaningful direction,” Schipporeit writes.
Policies should be crafted to make it easy for students to request transcripts, and institutions need established policies on ensuring transcript authenticity, faxing transcripts, rush requests, providing internal transcripts, and payment for records (which can be a contentious issue).
3. Grading and grade-related activities. “Having a written grade change policy is critical to managing records,” Schipporeit notes. And grade submissions should be processed quickly, accurately, and course grades should be accessible in a timely manner.
Established deadlines, such as for when grades are due and for appealing grades, should be communicated frequently. Processes for recalculating academic standing should be documented and reviewed each term for any changes or updates.
4. Curriculum management. “The processes of creating, updating, and retiring courses typically fall to the registrar’s office,” Schipporeit writes. “Because courses are the basis of all instruction, it is critical to ensure that records related to courses are accurate and up to date.”
Although faculty technically “own” the courses, they rely on the registrar to keep track of all approved courses and their attributes. Proper record-keeping requires a well-defined process to track proposals and determine when they are fully approved and ready to be offered to students. Learn more about the registrar’s role in curriculum management.
5. Records management and retention. Campuses must articulate retention procedures for purging and destroying records on a regular cycle and specify how long records are to be maintained. Since student records are created in multiple offices and may have archival value beyond the registrar’s office, other institutional offices should be consulted in writing a retention/disposal policy.
“Establish a list of all pertinent documents—hard copy and electronic—that are processed or maintained by the registrar’s office” Schipporeit writes. “Determine how long each type must be maintained. State and higher education governing bodies may provide guidance on any mandatory timelines.”
More guidance for registrars
In addition to the registrar’s role in academic policy -- explored in much greater detail in the text -- the Registrar’s Basic Guide also covers fundamental issues affecting the profession, including:
The Role of the Registrar
Communications, Publications, and Research
Managing the Registrar’s Office
Registration and Related Functions
Advising, Degree Audit, Graduation, Commencement
Information Technology and Technology Leadership
Legal, Compliance, and Certification Issues