What Does a Registrar Do?

MSU Registrar Nicole Rovig
I decided to take a step back from my typical blog posts about personal leadership to provide an important context for future posts. What is a registrar? What does a registrar do? After having been a registrar for 15 years, I was remiss to think everyone is familiar with the profession. While job responsibilities vary from institution to institution,  the core expectations are the same. Here are a few highlights of responsibilities from the perspective of a large research intensive university. 

Department Head

First and foremost, the University Registrar is the head of an academic support unit. As the department leader, they are responsible for their staff, budget, strategic planning, and overseeing operations of the unit. 

Operations oversight typically includes the following functional areas: academic records, degree certification, diplomas, registration, veterans services, residency, classroom scheduling, final exam scheduling, grading, curriculum and catalog, summer study, transfer credit processingstudent-athlete certification, and student data reporting.

Steward of Student Data and Records

The Registrar is the keeper of all student academic records for every student who ever attended the institution. For MSU this means keeping records from 1855 to present. The University Registrar is an expert in federal and state regulations, and institutional policy as it relates to confidentiality, and standards for maintaining and releasing records. A large portion of responsibility with academic records is overseeing student transcripts. In any given year, it was typical to process approximately 90,000 transcript requests. 

The University Registrar also serves to protect all student data not only in the form of external requests, but also to faculty and staff who need access to data in order to carry out their job responsibilities. The registrar typically signs off on access to data and systems. 

Thought Leader

The University Registrar's role has evolved and expanded over the years. It is one not only focused upon leading a department and overseeing operations with excellence, but is also expected to support and enhance the University's overall mission and vision. The registrar is expected to be a thought leader for the campus.

Contributions include:
  •  Overseeing data analysis and reporting of information in the areas of enrollment, retention, graduation, financial aid, and related areas
  • Working collaboratively across the university and providing the leadership in support of the institution's comprehensive enrollment strategy
  • Assisting with strategic planning and project management for the university’s initiatives to increase graduation rates, decrease time to degree, and improve student success
  • Planning, initiating, managing, and sponsoring cross-unit projects and teams
  • Engaging in strategic planning around information technology data systems and platforms


It has been a privilege to serve as a University Registrar for the last 15 years at both Missouri State University and Michigan State University. It's a challenging and rewarding career! The best part of my job is having the opportunity to contribute to student success. Today's students are our leaders tomorrow who will go forth and make this world a better place.


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