A Private Equity Monopoly Is Why It Costs $9 to Get Your University Transcript

Price gouging is everywhere.

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From a reader.

Dear Matt,

I think I found a weird little PE-rolled-up corner of the market: university transcripts.

As a public school teacher, I often have to submit official transcripts to state licensure authorities or to school districts. Universities have outsourced this to “credentials management” companies, who stand between students requesting official transcripts and the institutions themselves. Unfortunately, they’re buggy nightmares, and what should be a three-minute job inevitably takes 30: in my last go-round with Parchment, I had to create a new account (see screenshot), and for some reason the software kept kicking back my date of birth as invalid, despite having entered it in the correct format. Once you’ve created an account, you request your transcript and enter your credit card information (a PDF e-mailed to you is $9). Once you press “send,” I’m not quite sure what happens on the back end: I don’t think Parchment actually has any student files. They just send your information to the university for validation, the university sends back the transcript, and then Parchment sends it on to your chosen recipient. It takes a while.

Turns out that Parchment is the result of a PE rollup in the space.

"The combination of Parchment and Credential Solutions is the latest in a series of similar acquisitions in the credentialing business. Parchment bought AVOW Systems in 2012, and Credentials Solutions bought eScrip-Safe in 2014.”

Then, Brentwood Associates (the PE firm) acquired both Credentials Solutions and Parchment — and merged them.

If you want your credentials, you have to pay the troll toll to Brentwood Associates. I don’t even mind paying $9 to have a PDF e-mailed to me; I just object to the increasing crappiness of the software, which seems to make simple tasks difficult.

Bonus points if you can figure out why university registration and student management systems generally (Ellucian, PeopleSoft) are so aggravating and worthless.

Sam

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