Diplomas unclaimed, addresses unknown

SPSCC searching for owners of nearly 1,000 certificates

lpemberton@theolympian.comSeptember 3, 2013 

Janet Helsper a Academic Records Specialist and Jerad Sorber , Dean of Enrollment and Registrar at South Puget Sound Community in Olympia are mounting a campaign to find the owners of over 1000 unclaimed diplomas from the school some dating as far back as 1983. "I know some people think it's (a diploma) just a piece of paper, but if it was me I would like to have, " said Helsper.


Attention South Puget Sound Community College graduates: Is that fancy diploma case that you were handed during commencement still empty?

Officials at the Olympia-based college are trying to track down the owners of nearly 1,000 unclaimed diplomas and certificates.

“The farthest one we’ve found goes back to 1983,” said Jerad Sorber, dean of enrollment and registrar. “We have some 30-year-old diplomas sitting in our files right now.”

Some colleges have a policy to shred unclaimed diplomas after five years.

But SPSCC has always kept them, just in case those students, such as Caleb Grant (Class of 2012), Tonya Smith (Class of 2008) and Matthew Metcalf (Class of 1993), return someday for that fancy, embossed piece of paper that shows they completed a program or degree.

“They span the gamut — we’ve had people who have earned certificates, associate degrees — even high school diplomas,” Sorber said. “We have things for welding and medical assisting. … You could pick any one of our programs, and you could find a degree left from that program.”

A majority of the diplomas were returned to the college by mail, without forwarding addresses available. When that happens, staff members try to call the graduates, Sorber said. But sometimes, the phone numbers they have on file aren’t up to date, either.

Those missing their SPSCC certificate can call 360-596-5354 to begin the claim process.

The Evergreen State College in Olympia and Saint Martin’s University in Lacey also have unclaimed diplomas – but not nearly as many as SPSCC.

“When students apply to graduate, they provide their addresses,” said Evergreen spokeswoman Sandra Kaiser. “When they check in for commencement, their addresses are double-checked.”

Diplomas go unclaimed for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, students simply forget to pick them up, said Saint Martin’s registrar Alex Arceneaux.

“During the hiring process, potential employers tend to rely more on official transcripts than diplomas,” he added.

Still, Sorber said his goal is to find homes for as many of the SPSCC diplomas as possible.

“Some of these students invested years of their lives into their academic programs and they put a lot of work in and their families sacrificed to support them, and this is a way we can help recognize all of that work,” he said.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com

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