CARDIFF — A college graduate seeks a first job. A homemaker must assemble scattered course credits and a dated college transcript to prepare for a second career. A teacher making a transcontinental move needs rush delivery of university credits from this country and abroad.
All are likely clients for Academ, a Cardiff-based central holding house for transcripts from institutions of higher learning.
Academ is the brainchild of identical twins Don and Dave Megill. Their business is just one sideline to eclectic careers that include college-level teaching, writing jazz textbooks, operating three video rental stores, performing weekend musical gigs, conducting community choruses and delving into experimental music.
Originally considered as early as 1973, this newest Megill venture took root seven years ago on a small scale in California.
"Academ originated because we had so many transcripts," said Don Megill. The brothers completed music majors and all the premed course work at UC Berkeley, then earned master's degrees in music. "It's a hassle to move to another job. Each school keeps all the transcripts for the students at that school, but nobody holds all the client's records from different schools."
For students and job hunters alike, repeatedly having to call, write and send fees to all schools where they've completed course work can take weeks or months. Academ expedites the process by storing all of a client's transcripts in one place. On written request by clients, the service issues complete transcripts within 48 hours.
"A client sends us a list of the schools attended--we had one yesterday with 14," Dave Megill said. "Then we wait for documents to come in from those schools."
After the initial communication with schools is completed and official transcripts have been accepted by Academ, the client's records are updated as more courses are taken.
"It's simple on the client's end, but very complex at our end," Don said. "'We knew we were going to have to establish some very firm relationships."
Academ carefully laid groundwork by meeting with key representatives of concerned associations, such as the American Assn. of College Registrars and Admissions Officers; the Assn. for School, College and University Staffing; the American Assn. of School Personnel Administrators, and others. These organizations were particularly concerned with accuracy and how Academ would deal with fraudulent or doctored records.
"We have as strict, or more strict, proofings than the established standards," Don said. Using standard registrars' guidelines, Academ watches for red flags such as unsealed envelopes, mailing dates that indicate time for interception, evidence of tampering, or schools not recognized as accredited institutions.
"Leaders of registrars' organizations have seen the integrity with which we operate, and are now very supportive," Don said. Although such groups cannot officially endorse a private sector service, they can tell students about the service. "We want mutual respect between these associations and Academ," he said.
Both the Navy and Air Force have expressed interest in Academ for members of the armed services who accumulate units while serving overseas. When military service ends, scholarships and college acceptance often hinge on timely availability of transcripts.
Also interested are personnel in offices of certification, who "love to receive all of a prospective teacher's transcripts in one package," Dave said. "People right on the edge of student job placement and certification are really enthusiastic about Academ. They're the ones who collect transcripts, get them together and send them out in an expedient manner."
State certification offices see Academ's potential for compressing a normally lengthy process. In some cases, education codes have had to be reinterpreted (through the state attorney general's office) or legislative action taken to allow for a centralized private sector holding house such as Academ.
Charles Mackey, supervisor of teacher education and certification for New York State, said of Academ: "We have been very favorably impressed. Academ is a reliable, legitimate repository for transcripts. It appears to be a secure system which precludes any tampering or altering of records. Security is very important to us."
Mackey's office issues 25,000 to 30,000 teaching certificates each year and reviews close to 100,000 applications, with many applicants holding out-of-state or foreign credits. Mackey estimated that a service such as Academ could save the applicant six to eight weeks of processing time.
"The concept is superb," said Richard Mastain, who has been in charge of teacher licensing in California for five years. Recently appointed executive secretary for California's Commission on Teaching Credentialing, Mastain added: "For young people getting out of college, it makes a lot of sense to have a place like Academ keep their file.