At the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), AACRAO International Education Services (IES) announced its intention to shift its mission from conducting foreign credentials evaluations to providing international education training. As a result, AACRAO IES accepted its last application for evaluation from individuals in August 2016. See the official announcement.
Historically, AACRAO IES has sub-contracted with other evaluation agencies. Transcript Research is one of the only agencies that is a member of NACES, the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services, which is the premier association of credentials evaluation agencies in the world.
Transcript Research is happy to assist those institutions whose business process has been upended by this change. We can work with you so you don't lose time trying to find a replacement when all you want is to be able to make decisions about your international student applicants.
Who Is Transcript Research
Transcript Research is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services, NACES. Our evaluators are very active in the field of international education, presenting and publishing extensively. Our evaluators have written country profiles and book chapters for both NAFSA: Association of International Educators and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), the two major US organizations for international education.
Our evaluators have presented and written workshops, sessions, and poster fairs at all levels (state, regional, and national) of NAFSA and AACRAO. Members of our organization have also authored multiple country profiles for both the NAFSA Online Guide to International Education and AACRAO's Electronic Database for Global Education (EDGE). Our director was the Managing Editor of the the NAFSA wRAP-Up Newsletter for many years and is now spearheading the newsletter for The Association for International Credential Evaluation Professionals (TAICEP). We have also written numerous e-publications to assist those working with international credentials or international students, including Researching International Education Systems and Institutions, A Glossary of Foreign Transcript Evaluations, Bogus Institutions and Accrediting Bodies, Higher Education Authorities, and an Overview of Education in the U.S. in addition to dozens of conference sessions.
Working with Individuals and Institutions
Transcript Research offers two main avenues for evaluating credentials: working directly with the student applicants and working directly with the institution who will be using the evaluation. When working with direct applicants, we require the application form, application fee, and official documents. We can begin working with a scanned copy of the documents, but we have country-specific requirements for official documents before we will mail the evaluation report. You can get more information about our direct applicant requirements here. This is the option for those institutions who want the applicants to submit the application, fee, and documents. The application form allows the applicant to identify a third party recipient of the evaluation, so they can arrange to have an official copy of the report sent to you by mail or email/fax.
When working with the institutions* who will be using our evaluation reports directly, Transcript Research is able to streamline the process, saving your institution time and money over the direct applicant process. The entire process is done electronically, and you determine the type of evaluation and turnaround time you need. Transcript Research will invoice you at the end of the month for the evaluations completed that month. You maintain the documents and communication flow though we may offer recommendations regarding documentation practices. In addition, we offer the option to create custom application pages if you want your applicants to complete the application and submit the payment, but you want to maintain custody of the academic records.
Feel free to contact us for more information about working with us as an institutional client, or if you have questions about how your applicants can use our services. In addition, we are happy to send samples of our evaluation reports to institutions who would like to see more closely if our evaluations would fit their needs.
* Please note that we do not consider agents or recruiters to be the end user of the evaluations. The ultimate user of the evaluation is the academic institution, employer, immigration office, military recruiter, or others who are making decisions about the student applicant's future with their organization based on the evaluation report. We work with many agents and recruiters on behalf of our applicants, but the applicants must submit the application form and fee and follow the procedures for submitting official documents.
How to Choose an Evaluation Agency
Over the years, Transcript Research has offered numerous workshops and conference sessions to evaluators in the field of international credentials evaluations. We are often asked how institutions should go about choosing a credentials evaluation agency.
It is our sincere belief that it is in a higher education institution's best interests to do its own evaluations in-house IF the institution is able to financially and administratively support the in-house evaluation process (which requires not just the hiring and initial training of someone but also paying them adequately so they don't leave as soon as they're semi-autonomous, maintaining a sufficient library that includes both contemporary and historical print materials and likely a subscription service, receiving ongoing training via conferences and/or webinars and professional development, and time to do the research necessary for those esoteric credentials that show up in our offices more often than in the evaluation books, etc). The best chance a higher education institution has for protecting the value of its own degrees is to ensure that it is admitting qualified applicants who are held the same standard as their peers who are also applying with the same credentials. Obviously, the best chance of *that* is by doing in-house evaluations and documenting your grading scale conversions, equivalencies, and everything else related to the evaluation so that all staff members will be following the same protocols.
If that's not possible for any number of reasons (cost, training, retention, size of international student population, etc), then the second best choice is to look at evaluations from companies and try to identify those whose philosophies most closely align with your own. Another option if you have a dedicated person is to do most evaluations in-house and then sub-contract out those evaluations that are outside of your institution's expertise to one or two credential evaluation agencies whose policies align with your own.
If a particular evaluation agency is noted for doing completing evaluations based on work experience, for example, and that's not something your institution would accept, that's important to know. If an evaluation company considers all technical post-secondary programs to be non-academic in nature, even if you offer Associate's of Applied Arts and Sciences programs on your campus, that's an evaluation agency that might not be a good fit for you. If your institution requires original transcripts sent directly from the institution even for international applicants, then you'd want to know what types of documents the evaluation company accepts. If you have particular institutional policies regarding common gray areas (accounting professional certificates from the UK and/or India, 3-year Bachelor degrees from India, Bologna-compliant degrees, post-secondary technical training, Russian specialist degrees, religiously-affiliated institutions, etc.), then it's good to find out their strategies for handling them before your applicants spend their time and money on an evaluation that might not be suitable for your needs.
We know that many colleges and universities accept evaluations equally from all NACES members, all AICE members, and other reputable agencies, but then they're making their university decisions on inconsistent starting points. While all of these organizations are professional, respectable, and well informed, they are guided by different philosophies and ultimately reach different conclusions. There are no government-mandated standards regarding equivalencies, grading conversions, acceptable recognition authorities, and a number of topics related to this field, so it is quite likely to get two different evaluations conducted by two different respected companies for the same credentials (the type of credential determining how vast the differences). That isn't to say it's unprofessional or disorganized; it's just that, like US admissions offices have different stakeholders, internal policies, and requirements, so do professional evaluation agencies.
If you're an open admissions institution or moderately selective and just want to know general equivalency information without ever awarding transfer credit or admitting to graduate programs, probably any reputable agency from the above categories is fine. But if you plan to award transfer credits or admit students with international credentials into graduate programs, you would be better off limiting yourself to a small handful of evaluation companies that have an outlook similar to your institution's. If your institution doesn't have stated (internal) policies on handling evaluations, it's even more imperative that you have a small pool of evaluation companies from which your applicants may choose since you would presumably have to rely exclusively on the external evaluation to admit students into your programs. Your applicants will compare notes, and if you admit one person based on evaluation company A and deny someone else based on evaluation company B for the same credential, they WILL find out.
Higher education institutions and other institutions seeking credentials evaluations should be asking questions and requesting sample reviews of specific types of credentials that they need handled a certain way before accepting evaluations from any private company, regardless of reputation or size. We know that requires more work than just listing an organization's name on your website, but the best way to ensure that decisions are made as consistently and fairly as possible is by accepting only a small number of private evaluation companies whose philosophies align most closely with your own.