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Why 2019 Must Be the Year of Tech in Higher Ed

What are your college’s main concerns for 2019? Chances are they involve enrollment, marketing, programming, student experience and revenue. At first glance, these may seem like the domains of separate departments. Drill down, however, and you will see what they have in common: they all use and rely on technology.

We believe that a strong technology infrastructure will be essential to ensuring institutional viability in the coming year. Here’s why.

The amount of data available is accelerating at an unimaginable rate. New technologies are making this data actionable, but only if a college has the resources to take advantage of it.

Without those resources, colleges are running blind. They don’t know where their enrollment is coming from. They don’t know how to integrate systems and leverage internal and external data  in order to increase enrollment, and in the confusion, they miss opportunities to gain control of their sources of revenue.

In talking with colleges, we have found over and over again that they are dealing with disjointed technological ecosystems. They use customer relationship management systems (CRMs) that have such limited functionality that the high-value data captured early in the recruitment process cannot be passed on to marketing teams or other departments. Then, when marketing tries to backtrack and evaluate which campaigns impacted enrollment, information is too fuzzy.

Lack of data also prevents colleges from leveraging automated tools, thus bogging down enrollment staff with tasks that keep them from the high-value conversations they need to have with prospective students. Another source of frustration is when prospective students today don’t receive the seamless, fluid information flow they expect. When colleges are unable to provide a positive online user experience, prospective students move on to other choices.

In addition to optimizing marketing and admissions, we have seen institutions experience efficiencies in financial aid forecasting, retention, curriculum development and personal advising.

The return on investment is continual. Typically, we see a progression in improvements that may be broken into four phases:

  1. Descriptive analytics
  2. Diagnostic analytics
  3. Predictive analytics
  4. Prescriptive analytics

 When colleges can harness the data captured by web analytics, marketing automation, CRMs, student information systems (SIS), learning management systems (LMS) and social platforms, they are empowered to make data-driven decisions. That becomes the foundation for enhancing efficiencies. It also allows colleges to be nimble and responsive as they glean insights into programming, prospective students and other market forces.

According to Educause, the top IT issues in higher ed in 2019 are:

  1. Information security strategy
  2. Student success
  3. Privacy
  4. Student-centered institution
  5. Digital integrations
  6. Data-enabled institution
  7. Sustainable funding
  8. Data management and governance
  9. Integrative CIO
  10.  Higher education affordability

Data and an integrated technology platform are at the heart of at least seven of the top ten issues.

Because of this overlap, we believe there is a critical need for colleges to have a data and technology platform that can integrate disparate data and systems and help drive transformations in marketing, admissions and retention capabilities all at once in order to grow revenue.

Essentially, colleges can and should begin converting data into new intelligence in order to activate stronger enrollment and retention efforts. Rather than continue with fragmented, siloed systems in tackling one small segment of the overarching problem at a time, colleges would do better to go to the roots and create a platform that will allow for the free-flow of information campus-wide. It’s about closing the loop – becoming smarter and more effective over time.

The path may not be easy, but it’s an important investment in an institution’s viability. If you would like to explore how to maximize your school’s return on investment in technology, contact us at info@collegiseducation.com.

About the Author

Kim Fahey

Kim Fahey is executive vice president and chief information officer at Collegis Education. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Distribution Management from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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