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PA eSTARS to let educators electronically exchange student records

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 8:36 p.m.
With help from Hampton High School guidance councilor Terri Koprivnikar, senior Aaron Valentic, 18, was able to use the Naviance system to send his college application information electronically to several universities.  
Jasmine Goldband  |  Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
With help from Hampton High School guidance councilor Terri Koprivnikar, senior Aaron Valentic, 18, was able to use the Naviance system to send his college application information electronically to several universities. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Hampton High School senior Aaron Valentic, 18, looks over his Naviance profile in the school's college and career center.  Valentic used the system to send his college application information electronically to several universities.  
Jasmine Goldband  |  Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
Hampton High School senior Aaron Valentic, 18, looks over his Naviance profile in the school's college and career center. Valentic used the system to send his college application information electronically to several universities. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review

A $1.4 million federal grant will help Pennsylvania schools begin exchanging student transcripts electronically.

The state Department of Education in 2012 awarded the grant to Parchment Inc. of Arizona to implement Pennsylvania Electronic Student Transcripts And Records System, or PA eSTARS. The statewide network will enable schools to exchange student records and transcripts, according to a report by the Governor's Advisory Commission.

Timothy Eller, spokesman with the Education Department, said there's no mandate that K-12 schools and colleges participate.

“PDE expects those institutions who see value in the efficient and secure exchange of student records to voluntarily participate,” he said.

Schools have until June 30 to contact Parchment to sign up for the program if they want the grant to cover start-up costs.

Parchment representatives in Arizona and Pennsylvania did not return calls seeking comment. It's not known how many schools might take advantage of the program.

On its website, Parchment lists 156 Pennsylvania high schools and 64 universities that transmit records digitally.

The grant saves schools between $750 and $3,000 in start-up costs, depending on the school's size, according to Parchment's website. Once the program is in place, schools can pay annual fees for unlimited system access or pass the cost on to students on a per-transcript basis.

Hampton Township School District in Allison Park offers digital transmission of student records. Its program was in place before the grant became available, according to the district's guidance counselors.

Counselor Peter Allen said the electronic system allows students to monitor the transfer of records to colleges. They can go online to see whether the high school sent the records and, in most cases, to see whether the university downloaded them.

“One of the biggest benefits for us is, students can see, on a daily basis, whether we sent their records out,” Allen said. “So instead of answering phone calls from parents, they can log in and see that it was sent.”

The University of Pittsburgh is among colleges that accept electronic records. Spokesman John Fedele said it's faster than sending records by mail and reduces paperwork.

“The electronic transmittal of transcripts is more efficient, quicker, safer and far more environmentally friendly than transmittal of paper,” Fedele said.

Schools that wish to participate in the free start-up program should visit www.paestars.com before June 30.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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