Published Dec 26, 2003

For some reason, business schools seem to actually want proof that I’ve gained academic success in the past, so I’ve ordered transcripts from all two of the colleges I’ve attended. The transcripts tell a lot about me, but they also tell a lot about the schools.

Had I it all to do again, I would order the transcripts early. Very early. After all, this is a part of the process that is entirely out of my control, so it’s kind of nerve-wracking to not have the transcripts in my hand. And I’m a bit concerned that, should there be any problems with the transcripts, there won’t be time to deal with that. But this is the order in which I prioritized all of the application-related activities I have to do, and I still believe it’s the best order I could have chosen given the demands upon my time.

But that’s not the interesting part of the transcripts; the interesting part is how much they cost. I paid $20 for each of the six copies (five for my schools, one for me to look at to make sure everything is ok) of my UCLA transcript from three classes I took in the summer of 1995, with turnaround promised within a week or so or maybe ten days. And then I paid $0 each for the six copies of my Pomona transcript, turned around and headed back into my hands within three days.

Why the difference? Well, UCLA is a state school that makes money from its state budget and from fees. Pomona is a private school that makes money from annual giving. Giving doesn’t appear on the radar of UCLA, and probably shouldn’t lest state schools crowd out private ones entirely. Fees, on the other hand, are a mixed blessing for Pomona. It’s nice to have ongoing income, but when you only graduate 300 people a year, how much money can you make out of $20 fees? On the other hand, maybe an easy, cheap transcript leaves a good taste in an alum’s mouth. Maybe an easy, cheap transcript gets an alum a better job faster. Maybe charging $20 for a transcript to an alum who has already paid $100,000 to go to your school will tick an alum off. Whatever way you count it, free transcripts must have at least a mild positive effect on alumni, which can’t negatively affect giving.

Transcripts: college business models at work.