As school guidance counselors brace for the height of the college application season, those in several Indiana school systems will face a far easier task this year, thanks to a new electronic transcript program that soon will be available at no charge to every school and student in the state.

Indiana students will be able to submit their high school transcripts electronically to colleges nationwide as part of a new statewide initiative launched in October. Called Indiana eTranscript, the program will link every Indiana high school with colleges in the state, as well as several colleges across the country. State education officials say it will cut from weeks to days the time it can take to process transcripts that are required by universities during the admissions process.

So far, about one-third of Indiana’s school corporations have signed up to use the program, along with all seven public colleges in the state and one-third of its private universities. Officials expect every high school and college in the state to use eTranscript over the next 15 months.

Using the program, students will be able to request a transcript by eMail. A high school guidance counselor will approve the request, and the transcript will be forwarded to colleges electronically.

Students will receive eMail messages updating them on the status of their request. State officials hope the program also will save guidance counselors from the onslaught of status requests from worried students.

On average, high school seniors apply to six colleges–each requiring its own transcript to record academic achievement. While schools struggle with budget shortfalls and under-funded federal mandates, overburdened counselors and administrators spend precious staff time processing transcripts: nearly $7 in labor and materials for every transcript sent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The $800,000 service is free to Indiana students, high schools, and colleges and is being paid for by the Indiana Secondary Market, a nonprofit organization that works to make college more affordable for the state’s students.

John Reese, president of Docufide Inc., which was awarded the eTranscript contract with Indiana, said all data sent to his company–regardless of the format used by the sending institution–will be translated by the company’s server into XML protocol.

“We are printing some of the transcripts [and delivering them to the receiving institutions],” Reese said. “Some are sent as PDFs. By next year, 60 or 70 percent of all transcripts [sent in Indiana] will be electronic.”