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CNM to offer digital diplomas

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The same technology that powers the cryptocurrency Bitcoin could eventually help Central New Mexico Community College students as they apply for jobs or transfer credits.

The state’s largest community college plans to start issuing digital diplomas and transcripts that students can access and directly distribute – say to a potential employer or another school.

Currently, CNM students who want transcripts must order copies for $6 apiece.

CNM invested $25,000 in the new technology and will pilot it next month. It will issue digital certificates to the 21 students graduating Dec. 15 from its Deep Dive Coding bootcamps.

The school will then implement the service gradually, expanding to the first college-credit program – retail management – next summer and adding more from there.

Even with the new technology, CNM still will offer the same documents on paper.

CNM President Kathie Winograd

“We are very excited to begin adopting this technology that’s going to provide more value, independence and convenience to our students throughout their lives,” CNM President Kathie Winograd said in a statement.

The process is built upon “blockchain,” the same decentralized technology that fosters the transfer of Bitcoin. Blockchain allows for the sharing of digital data but not the manipulation of existing entries.

Certificates are not maintained on a CNM servers but rather exist “in the ledger that is distributed securely among all computers,” according to CNM. Students can share copies of their transcripts by sending a link, which has a built-in verification feature.

“The system checks the authentication number at the bottom of the credential and then it says, ‘This is a Valid Credential,'” CNM spokesman Brad Moore said in an email.

Moore said CNM is New Mexico’s first higher education institution to utilize digital credentials and intends to eventually develop a platform that the state’s other schools – including K-12 schools – also could use.

CNM issued about 22,000 transcripts during the 2016-17 school year, Moore said. Since it uses a third-party vendor to handle most requests, CNM only gets a portion of the fee – which amounted to about $51,000 last year.

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