The Registrar’s Personal Guru

When I was a newly minted registrar, I was such a rookie! I’d never worked in higher education before in my life. The previous Registrar left on not-so-great terms, and the Assistant Registrar left one week after I started (also a planned exit). It was a small school and after those two left, I had a receptionist who sort of knew where things were kept and when stuff generally happened throughout the year, but she’d been kept in the dark so much that we ended up making up the job together. It took me 3 years to feel like I knew enough to be considered a registrar. I wish I’d had a personal guru.

I did have a copy of Admissions, Academic Records, and Registrar Services, by C. James Quann and Associates, published in 1979, but it was hopelessly out of date by 1997, when I started. If only The Registrar’s Guide had been published by AACRAO back then!

Question: “When’s the best time to plant a tree?”

Answer: “Twenty years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is today.”

The Registrar’s Guide wasn’t available in 1997, but it is today, and it is comprehensive with thirty-five chapters and 514 pages, including appendixes. Topics range from a short history of the Registrar to policy, degree audit, management issues, registration and record retention (even disaster recovery!), service issues, budgeting in lean times, along with modern issues like distance education. The comprehensive label applies when you see chapters titles like, “Issues for Registrars at Small Colleges,” “Theological Institutions: Special Challenges, Special Opportunities” and “Study Abroad: Accreditation and Transcript Issues”.

It is an American book, so chapters on Financial Aid 101, The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and “The Solomon Amendment” are somewhat parochial, but it’s pretty easy to sift through the US-specific info to find the general principles. Each chapter is written by an expert in the field, and therefore is a great help to the new registrar while also being valuable for those of us who’ve been around for a while. There is always something to learn.

I have only one criticism. The Guide does not help much with defining significant and important areas of the job. For example, almost every Registrar’s Office makes reference to a student file or student record, but nowhere is this defined, nor is there any guiding thoughts on what makes a student record. There is a chapter on records retention and disaster recovery (very good), and a short list of taking an inventory of records, but how to define a record – what makes a student record – is a very important question that needs some attention. Poor record keeping can quickly escalate to a legal problem at worst, but at least will contribute to confusion, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies.

Other than this criticism, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you. It is seasoned, full of wisdom, and organized very well with a great Table of Contents and Index that help you to find what you need very quickly. It’s not cheap – the price for non-members is $130, and the price for member is $95 – but it is worth every penny of that.

Buy it!

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