- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2008

RICHMOND (AP) — A pilot project at nine Virginia high schools will eliminate one step in college admissions: mailing transcripts to colleges.

The Virginia Department of Education is testing an electronic-transcript program designed to create a faster and more secure way to get transcripts to colleges and universities, said Bethann Canada, director of information management.

James Madison University in Harrisonburg and George Mason University in Fairfax will help test the pilot program in June.

“So often, information critical to the application process isn’t received,” said Joe Manning, associate director of admissions at JMU. “There are a 100 different reasons why. It could get lost in the mail, misaddressed, misfiled.”

The electronic method will give schools almost instant confirmation that a college has received a transcript. Mr. Manning said the data will be matched to online applications based on a student’s name, date of birth, address and high school.

If the pilot program is successful, as many as 30 Virginia school systems could begin using the program by the 2008-09 school year, Mrs. Canada said.

Paper transcripts will also be sent for comparison.

“It can put information directly into a student’s file electronically,” said Ginny Napier, a guidance counselor. “It will cut out a lot of paperwork and middle man. There’s always room for error when a person is keying in the data.”

She said the system also would save a significant amount of time for guidance counselors, who typically spend “hours and hours” creating and mailing student records.

Gregg Gustafson, technology director of Poquoson City Schools, said the manual process can be cut to about a minute when done electronically.

“We’ve actually been put in a leadership position by testing this,” he told the Daily Press of Newport News. “It’s exciting. It’s going to be a boon for all students graduating across the state of Virginia once it’s complete.”

The pilot program is a precursor to testing a program that will allow the electronic transfer of student files among all K-12 schools in the state a move that Mrs. Canada said could significantly speed the process when a students transfers between school divisions.