Simplified Registration | Online Registration Software

Whether your school enrolls a few hundred students or thousands, higher education registration software can enhance the efficiency and accuracy of your operations. Students not only need to enroll in courses that fulfill their degree requirements but also seek access to captivating classes. However, managing course registrations presents one of the most challenging tasks for educational institutions. This challenge involves coordinating faculty and student schedules, ensuring course availability, and optimizing facility utilization, resulting in a complex puzzle.

Online registration software plays a pivotal role in simplifying this intricate process.

A cloud-based, integrated student information system with higher education registration tools makes a significant difference. This technology automates certain functions, minimizes the need for data entry, and empowers students to manage their class selection and track their requirements.

If your school adopts online registration, it alleviates the onerous workload on your staff. This system eliminates the necessity for laborious manual data entry from paper or online forms. Consequently, your staff can redirect their efforts towards assisting students and efficiently managing course offerings and requirements. Furthermore, transitioning to an online system drastically reduces the occurrence of errors, such as students being unable to enroll in a desired class or being placed in an incorrect section.

By upgrading from a paper-based or manual computer system to online registration software, schools can streamline the registration process for all parties involved. As an added benefit, it also ensures student data stays organized and remains accessible to administrators, faculty, and students.

In this post, we will cover:

The Challenges of Manual Registration
Advantages of Online Registration
Must-Have Online Registration Features in an SIS
The Bottom Line: An Integrated SIS Powers Online Registration

The Challenges of Manual Registration

If online registration sounds like a win-win for everyone involved, you’re absolutely right. However, many SISs do not support online registration, or a schools might not be fully utilizing this feature within their existing systems.

For years, many colleges, universities, and career schools relied on time-consuming paper and manual data entry for student registration, despite significant shortcomings.

Consequently, this puts a hefty burden on the registrar and their staff, overwhelming them with clerical tasks including managing spreadsheets, manual inputting data, processing paper forms, and dealing with inefficient communication with students and other departments. So circumstances put undue strain on your staff and slows down operations.

When your school uses paper registration, both students and administrators are susceptible to making errors on their forms, and there’s potential for paper to go missing. When a staff member manually inputs data into a computer system, there is a risk information could be miskeyed or they will forget to save changes, leading to incomplete or incorrect course selection.

Furthermore, a manual process is inefficient. If a staff member is required to take paper registrations and manually log each student’s information into the system, it consumes a significant amount of time and resources. Consequently, your staff has less time to provide guidance to your students on course selection and progress towards their degrees or certificates.

If a student misses out on courses they need to satisfy their major, degree, or certification requirements, that can have significant repercussions. Such a situation could delay a student’s graduation or certification and even jeopardize their prospects for job placement.

Advantages of Online Registration

By upgrading to an SIS equipped with online registration tools, your school can modernize the registrar’s office, enhance the registration experience for both students and staff, and streamline the communication process.

Convenience and Efficiency
Today’s tech-savvy students are accustomed to managing various aspects of their lives online, and that extends to course selection and enrollment. No visit to the registrar’s office required.   

With students using a dedicated student portal for their course registration, they have flexibility to manage the process on their own pace. They can explore an array of courses and verify the requirements for their degree programs, certificates, and majors. Online registration tools eliminate the need to visit the registrar’s office in person and significantly reduces the need for assistance through phone calls and emails. This empowers students to control of the process.  

Within an integrated SIS, students’ information is seamlessly linked to their student ID number, facilitating easy access to students’ records. Additionally, their registration details are connected to the customer relationship manager (CRM), which can trigger notifications related to course enrollments, degree requirements, or changes in course information.

Online registration promptly conveys relevant information to their student account, provides data to  other key departments, such as enrollment, financial aid, and billing. This interactivity ensures swift and accurate communications between departments. 

Faster Processing
Online registration tools work their magic behind the scenes. Without them, a staff member must manually enter and verify the data when students choose courses on paper, email, or online submissions. That process is labor-intensive and demands a significant number of work hours. 

In contrast, an SIS with integrated online registration software expedites the selection and enrollment process. When students opt for online registration, the system automatically reserves their spots and transmits the data to their account. This enables them to swiftly and easily add and drop classes and view their schedule via the online portal. 

Moreover, online registration empowers the registrar and their assistants monitor course enrollment in real time. This capability aids in managing staffing, room allocation, and location decisions. It also allows the registrar to monitor enrollment numbers in real-time, informing decisions such as adding a wait list, opening additional sections, or cancelling a course if it is under-enrolled.  

Reduced Errors
The possibility for mistakes arises when a staff member is responsible for manually inputting students’ course selections. If they enter the wrong course number or section, a student might miss out on their desired class or be enrolled in different course. Such errors could potentially derail their path to graduation or certification. In contrast, an automated, online system significantly improves accuracy and validity by automating the process.

Furthermore, using an online registration system reduces student errors as well. If students have incomplete or incorrect information, the system can promptly alert them to correct mistakes or provide additional details. This proactive feature markedly decreases errors and assists students enrolling into the appropriate classes. 

Improved Student Experience
When students get the classes they want without any hiccups, their satisfaction soars. A student portal equipped with online registration enhances transparency and empowers students to take control of their course selection. It also allows them to manage their schedules and monitor their progress towards meeting degree or program requirements.

An improved student experience elevates overall satisfaction and can lead to higher enrollment and better retention rates.

Must-Have Features for Online Registration

Not all higher education registration software is created equal. A cloud-based, integrated SIS with an online registration module like Campus Cafe offers the essential tools your school requires.  

Key features include:

User-friendly interface
Online registration doesn’t have to be intimidating. If your SIS offers a modern, intuitive student portal, it becomes accessible to a diverse range of users, including younger students, parents, and non-traditional students. 

A well-designed platform offers clean and straightforward navigation experience, coupled with easily accessible help and technical support. Recognizing that older individuals returning to school for a new degree may not be as comfortable with online processes as an 18-year-old familiar with virtual sign-ups, it’s critical to support all users. By offering a streamlined and modern experience, you’ll have increased user adoption and overall customer satisfaction.  

Technical support and readily accessible FAQs are equally critical. A robust system will offer clear instructions, provide video and text tutorials, and direct users to online assistance as needed. 

Additionally, it’s imperative to ensure that the online registration tools are accessible from mobile devices, tablets, and computers, granting users the flexibility and capability to access their accounts anywhere and anytime.

Course catalog management
Top-tier higher education registration software should accommodate students’ needs as enrolled students and their journey towards graduation. In the portal, students should have the ability to view their past, current, and future program types, as well as degree requirements, and their academic progress. 

For instance, Campus Cafe’s system empowers students to access information such as clock hours, credits, terms, semesters, and asynchronous learning start and end dates. It is also important to offer users the opportunity to browse available classes, schedules, and faculty biographies.  

Cohort registration
A robust online registration system also simplifies the tasks of the registrar.. With cohort registration, staff can efficiently register multiple students and large groups into various classes, programs, or sections. By enabling registrars to bundle enrollment, it saves time that would otherwise be spent entering the individual details into the system one by one.  

Evan after students have selected their courses and received their schedules, the registrar’s work continues. The office consistently manages both current and upcoming course offerings. An online registration system assists the staff in monitoring which classes are the most popular and identifying which are under-enrolled. It also allows the registrar to keep tabs on what courses cohorts will need to take in future modules or semesters, enabling better planning for staffing and locations. An online system allows the registrar to audit past course enrollments and strategize for future offerings.

Integration with other departments
By utilizing an integrated SIS, your school enables other departments to access the registration information they require for their respective functions and reporting needs.

The admissions office can effectively monitor registrations, allowing them to track the popularity of courses and programs. This valuable information becomes crucial for recruitment and marketing strategies

For the bursar’s office, accessing students’ enrollment information and status is essential for billing and accounting. Similarly, the financial aid office relies on data concerning students’ part-time or full-time status, as well as the required program hours, to accurately structure aid packages and fulfill reporting requirements.

Third-party application integration
Some schools rely on third-party applications for specific functions and it smooths operations if their SIS supports these programs. If a school’s SIS and online registration module seamlessly integrate with its learning management system (LMS), enrollment and auditing is easier. It also feeds real-time data to transcripts and student records, enhancing accuracy and validity. 

The Bottom Line: An SIS with Online Registration Simplifies Operations

Online registration software is a win for both your students and staff. When students can independently manage their registration through a user-friendly portal, they gain control over their course selection and enrollment information, all while working at their own pace.

Higher education registration software empowers your registrar and their team to access real-time enrollment data by course, individual, and cohort. This information is invaluable for managing class availability and staffing. Additionally, online registration liberates your staff from labor-intensive paperwork and manual data entry, allowing them to focus on other tasks and support to students.

By upgrading to an SIS with online registration software, your school can significantly improve the student experience and operational efficiency. That will undoubtedly earn high marks from all users involved.

Unleash the Power of an Integrated SIS with Automated Billing and Payment Collection

When it comes to student billing and payments, it’s essential that schools have the best tools to manage data and maintain an accurate financial ledger. Without those tools, your students’ status and payments could be at risk. Upgrading to an integrated student information system (SIS) with school billing software can significantly improve efficiency, transparency, and ultimately enhance your school’s financial position.

A modern, cloud-based SIS with a built-in billing and finance module provides tools to improve key operations. For instance, online payment collection allows students to access their accounts and make quick online payments. Additionally, the finance department can efficiently communicate with students and share data with colleagues in other offices, such as admissions, the registrar, and student services.

When you consider the benefits of an SIS with integrated student billing and finance, it becomes clear this is a smart choice for schools of any size. However, at many schools, the finance office isn’t well equipped with the best software or tools. They may have outdated software that doesn’t integrate with the SIS or, even worse, the department may be using its own software and operating in an isolated environment. That hinders cooperation, transparency, and efficiency.

In this post, we will cover:

Why the Finance Office Should Use an Integrated SIS

Proper financial management is crucial for any educational institution, be it a university, college or career school.

The finance department plays a vital role in handling student billing and payment information and directly impacts your school’s financial health. Tuition is a key source of revenue for institutions across the board. If students’ financial information, including their tuition balances and payment history, isn’t accurate and accessible, it can have far-reaching effects across campus.

Unfortunately, many schools face a technology gap with their finance and billing. These departments frequently lack the technology tools the staff need to optimize their work processes. Even worse, they may use their own software and procedures that don’t integrate with the school’s SIS. This disjointed approach can lead to account errors and restricts other departments’ access to important information.

Implementing an integrated SIS with a billing and payment module equips the finance department with important tools. These options include reporting modules, a searchable database and an online portal so students can check their balances and make payments. Simple features such as automated reminders, which can be configured with an integrated SIS, can greatly improve the timeliness of payments.

Using the same SIS across departments, including the finance office, fosters collaboration and ensures accurate data management. By working from a single source of truth, different departments can exchange real-time information and maintain transparency. This benefits stakeholders across campus, including admissions and the registrar. For instance, if the student billing software shows an outstanding balance and the registrar can access that information, they can flag a student’s class registration pending payment. Effective communication and accurate data are critical to keeping a student’s education on track and keeping essential staff informed.

How School Billing Software Helps Finance Departments

A school’s billing and finance office is a vital intermediary between the institution and its students and the source of essential information. An integrated SIS can significantly enhance the efficiency and accuracy of that work.  

Here are some key ways an integrated SIS with school billing software improves back-office and finance operations:

Automated billing and payment: An integrated SIS eliminates heavy lifting. Instead of staff manually updating student accounts and records, an SIS with school billing software automatically monitors and updates student financial records as enrollment and registration information are received and monitors payments. 

Users can create workflows that document what is owed, when notifications are sent, when payments are received, and, if there is a balance, when those alerts are sent.

Real-time notifications can be sent to students regarding outstanding balances, payment receipts, reminders about upcoming payments, and alerts about late payments.  

These functions streamline transactions, ensure accurate financial records, and help students stay organized.

Enhanced security: A cloud-based SIS creates crucial layers of security to protect sensitive personal and financial information that flows through the business office, including personal information, credit card numbers, and bank account details.

Storing student’s personal financial information in unsecured spreadsheets, emails or even paper files is replaced by an encrypted, secure cloud-based system.  

Administrators can configure permissions to restrict access to only necessary staff, further securing important records.

Improved communication with students: An SIS with a built-in customer relationship management tool (CRM) allows administrators to set up automated notifications, such as upcoming payments, payment reminders, and payment confirmation. This helps students stay on tracks and allows the staff to monitor the ledger without manually sending individual messages or reminders.  

Increased transparency and information sharing: When all departments use the same SIS, they can easily access common data and share information. This improves overall operations and allows staff to work more efficiently. For example, admissions can see if a student has paid their application fees, and the registar can quickly see if a student has a hold on their account within the system. 

Faster payments: A convenient and secure online payment portal provided through the student finance module allows students to make payments electronically, which are faster, more reliable and more secure than mailing a check or calling with an account servicer with credit card information.  

Improved record keeping: An SIS with a school billing and finance module allows finance employees to keep their records within a single system accessible to authorized personnel. If the SIS supports integration with third-party software, data can be exported from the SIS into those programs, ensuring the use of the most accurate billing statement data.

Coordinate with financial aid: When the school billing software is integrated with the SIS, it facilitates more transparent communications regarding financial aid. If financial aid is included in a billing statement, the student and the finance staff can see an accurate record of outstanding costs and payment applied.

Through the system, staff can swiftly and accurately communicate to the student the exact amount of money that they owe and when payments are due. Students can view their charges after deducting the financial aid they have received.  

On the other hand, if the student billing doesn’t incorporate real-time financial aid information, there’s a risk a student won’t have the most up-to-date financials, leading to potential delays or overpayments.  

Third-party app integration: Many schools use third-party accounting software for bookkeeping, payables and financial reporting. With a robust and integrated SIS, seamless integration with these and other programs is possible by exporting student account data and spreadsheets. That allows the finance staff to populate their reports with the most accurate and timely billing information.

How Campus Cafe Software Streamlines School Billing and Finance

Campus Cafe offers an all-in-one SIS with a built-in school billing and finance module that helps improve billing and finance practices. By implementing an integrated SIS, you can provide your students with more convenient options, expedited payments and notifications, and gain a real-time understanding of the overall student financial ledger.

Our student information system includes the following:

  • Student account portal: Our user-friendly and intuitive account portal lets students access their financial records, view current and past transactions, and make payments. In cases where outstanding and overdue payments exist, your school can temporarily put a student’s account on hold until they settle their dues.  
  • Secure online bill payment: Students can make direct payments through a secure and encrypted interface on the school’s website. Electronic payments are convenient and stress-free for students, and they enable faster payments to schools. When payments are posted, the system automatically updates the students’ accounts. 
  • More efficient payments: No more waiting for paper checks to arrive and clear. When students make online payments, it saves staff time on manual data entry and account entries. 
  • Billing notifications and updates via CRM: Our built-in CRM allows users to send regular payment reminders via text, email or mail, and schedule follow up reminders. Administrators can configure notifications based on events, such as sending out a notification after a student makes a payment.  
  • Payment plans: We provide schools with the flexibility to  configure a payment schedule that meets your students’ needs. Payments can be made over a specified number of days, on specific dates or intervals, or as a percentage of the total due. This feature offers students convenience and flexibility. It also helps the finance office effectively manage collections.   
  • Fee customization: If your school implements late fees or a credit card fee, our system can be easily configured to add those amounts to a student’s billing statement
  • Cash management: An integrated billing system enables your school to maintain accurate financial records. Given that tuition payments contribute significantly to a school’s budget, timely access to payment data aids in budgeting and managing cash flow.  

By better organizing your school’s financial processes and data management, you can ensure smoother campus operations. Our integrated SIS that connects all departments, providing stakeholders with a better view of your school’s financial health. 

Are you ready to streamline student billing and improve your school’s cash flow? Contact us today for a demo of our school billing software.

How a Small Private College Revolutionized Its Data Management

When a college or university is using an outdated, unreliable student information system, it limits the school’s ability to function efficiently and effectively. A new technology partner can help. An integrated student information system organizes data, allows users to access the most accurate information, produces more reliable information, and improves operations across campus. That’s exactly what Huntingdon College, a small private college in Montgomery, Ala., wanted and needed.

After struggling with an outdated student information system, Huntingdon curated a wishlist for a new system. The school wanted a modern, integrated system with a user-friendly portal, customizable workflows, and cloud-based storage. The SIS would serve all critical departments, including admissions, the registrar, and financial aid, and support students, faculty, administrators, and staff. A responsive technology partner with top-notch customer and technical support also topped the list.

After considering several providers, Campus Cafe Software’s integrated, cloud-based SIS fits the bill.

“When you go with a company that is aligned with your value and your size, they pay the right amount of attention to you,” explained Anneliese Spaeth, the school’s VP of technology and a math professor who spearheaded the search and implementation of the new system.

The path to a new SIS

Huntingdon currently enrolls about 1,000 students in its undergraduate and graduate programs. The school plans to expand its student population and add graduate programs in the coming years. Huntingdon needed an SIS to support its current needs and flex as it grows.

By early 2020, it was clear the school’s previous SIS wasn’t meeting its needs. Users said the interface was clunky and hard to navigate. The system lacked an integrated customer relationship management system to track communications and set alerts, which is particularly helpful for the admissions, financial aid, and registrar departments.

The old system was plagued by other limitations too. It didn’t offer third-party software integrations, required on-site servers, and couldn’t support remote access for users to log in from mobile devices and off-campus computers. Notably, the technical and customer support was slow to respond to tickets and troubleshoot problems.

In the end, Spaeth said, Huntingdon didn’t just need a new SIS; The school required a technology partner to implement a new system and be vested in its success.

How Campus Cafe provided workable solutions

When it came time to shop around, Spaeth wanted an integrated, cloud-based system, and most new solutions offered that feature. Beyond that, finding the right match was challenging. Some companies offered a dizzying array of choices and customizations with hefty price tags, while others were too limited in scope and service.

Campus Cafe Software stood apart, Spaeth said. It featured a clean, intuitive design, could support third-party integrations, and could be customized to meet Huntingdon’s needs, such as building admissions workflows and searchable databases. The technical support and company executives were accessible and responsive.

“The software hits that middle ground,” she says. “It offers enough functionality that we can breathe a little bit, do what we need to do, and also have some choices, but not too many where we’d have difficulty with some offices that wouldn’t understand how the system works.”

Here’s how Campus Cafe delivered on Huntingdon’s wish list of features — and more.

Improved admissions workflow: Information from admissions flows to all the other departments, so Huntingdon’s team created custom workflows and activities so that data is properly entered, stored, sorted, and analyzed. Now, all users can search and sort that data.

Simplified registration: Scheduling workflows ensure students register for the right classes to satisfy their major requirements. Registrars can upload student schedules and sort data within the system.

Reduced IT burden: Campus Cafe’s cloud-based systems removed the need for on-site servers and hardware, which were costly to maintain and required servicing. Campus Cafe remotely handles all updates, maintenance, and security scans on the cloud.

Better training: Before Huntingdon went live with its new SIS, Campus Cafe provided off-site and on-site training and tailored sessions for different user groups.

Streamlined back-office operations: With reliable data that is integrated and accessible, the business office and registrar can access information quickly and send notifications and alerts to students, including notifications about courses, bills, and financial aid.

Responsive technical support: Campus Cafe’s technical support team is readily available to troubleshoot problems and quickly find answers to questions. Spaeth says they’re “extremely responsive” and react quickly on nights and weekends.

A like-minded technology partner: Campus Cafe offers decades of experience in higher ed technology but also prides itself on highly personalized service. Spaeth said that also distinguishes the company from its competitors. She can easily reach company executives to talk through issues or ideas.

After two years on Campus Cafe, Spaeth said she receives very few inquiries for help and that most users report positive experiences. Departments across campus utilize the software and note that data is accurate and accessible, making their work more efficient and increasing collaboration.

The feedback affirms Spaeth’s choice for a new SIS.

“Campus Cafe is the right fit for us,” she said.

Click here for the full case study of Huntingdon College’s move to Campus Cafe.

EdConnect and EdExpress | Financial Aid Software

The Pros and Cons of EdExpress for Financial Aid Software

As the cost of higher education continues to rise, federal financial aid plays a crucial role in supporting millions of students in financing their education. However, the administration of federal aid is a complex process that necessitates the use of financial aid management software by colleges, universities, and trade schools.

Higher Education instituions have a range of financial aid tools available to them. Some opt for an integrated student information system (SIS) with a built-in financial aid module, while others utilize free government-provided software system known as EdExpress in conjunction with EdConnect.

Given that EdExpress is a free option, one might wonder why not all institutions choose to adopt it. In this article, we will outline the advantages and disadvantages of opting for EdExpress versus using an integrated SIS with financial aid management.

In this post, we will cover:

The bottom line: An integrated SIS improves financial aid management

What are the free government financial aid software systems?

To assist managing the financial aid process, the Department of Education provides Title IV-eligible schools two free software systems: EdConnect and EdExpress. These programs can be used independently or together by schools to handle their students’ financial aid.

EdConnect is PC software that assists schools with sending, receiving, and managing their federal student aid information.

EDExpress is PC software that processes, packages, and manages Title IV student federal financial aid records.

To put it simply, EdConnect is a data transfer system, and EdExpress is a tool to help processes the information.

Typically, schools use EdConnect to communicate information to the Department of Education and then employ either EdExpress or a student information system (SIS) with integrated financial aid management software to administer and manage funding.

Why do schools use EdExpress?

Because EdExpress is a free system, it is a cost-effective option. It is often used by smaller schools with limited budgets for financial aid software and fewer staff members compared to larger institutions.

Schools may also opt to use EdExpress if they have a smaller student body and they can handle manually entering the required student data. However, for schoolsl withmore than a few hundred students, manual data entry becomes burdensome.

If a school uses an SIS that lacks an integrated financial aid module, their financial aid office may resort to using EdExpress to transmit data from the SIS. However, this can lead to glitches and unreliability, as discussed further below.

What are the downsides of EdExpress?

When it comes to financial aid software, the old saying, the saying “You get what you pay for” holds true.. While EdExpress saves money when compared to an integrated SIS with a financial aid module, it also limits a school’s options and requires more man-hours for data entry and troubleshooting.

When you compare the free system to an integrated SIS with a financial aid module, EdExpress’s shortcomings include the following:

  • Tedious and time-consuming data entry that requires dedicated staff.
  • Potential mismanagement of student disbursements and lack of integration between EdExpress and the school’s SIS, resulting in inconsistent and unreliable data. This might result is government fines and put the institutions Title IV standing at risk.
  • Difficulty transmitting individual student program data from the SIS to EdExpress.
  • Absence of customer relationship management (CRM) functionality, such as sending emails or notifications to students or collecting documents electronically.

How Campus Cafe improves financial aid processing

Campus Cafe’s offers an all-in-one, integrated SIS with financial aid software designed to streamline the financial aid process, making it easier, faster, and more reliable. It simplifies financial aid management, improves reporting, saves time and resources and ultimately produces more accurate and reliable information.

Campus Cafe integrates with EdConnect to send and receive accurate information from the Department of Education. By upgrading from the free EdExpress software to Campus Cafe’s subscription-based SIS with financial management options, schools can enjoy several significant advantages:

  1. Real-time data transfer: Full system integration ensures that student ledgers, records, and program data remain synchronized with the Department of Ed’s Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) system, supporting origination, disbursement, and reporting for federal loans and grants.
  2. CRM functionality: The built-in CRM automatically notifies students of verification, rejection, packaging, and other financial aid statuses.
  3. Student portal integration: Both school staff and students can submit and manage documents through the student portal, reducing the reliance on email and phone communications and improving the flow of accurate, timely documentation.
  4. Robust system security: Campus Cafe’s cloud-based system offers state-of-the-art security measures to safeguard sensitive records, including students’ personal and financial information.
  5. Training and support: The Campus Cafe team assists schools in configuring their financial aid management software during implementation and provides ongoing support for troubleshooting system problems and addressing individual situations, from packaging to disbursement.

The Bottom Line: An integrated SIS improves financial aid management

You don’t have to be a financial aid guru or IT whiz to use Campus Cafe’s financial aid tools. The integrated SIS and financial aid module uses intuitive dashboards that are easy to navigate. Campus Cafe provides training for your team and offers responsive, timely support as needed.

The system automatically packages aid based on an individual student program or cohort, providing comprehensive organization and disbursement processing.  Additionally, it reduces your team’s workload, allowing them to focus on other important tasks while ensuring accurate and timely delivery of financial aid to students.

Most importantly, Campus Cafe is continuously updating its financial aid management software to accommodate new government regulations. The organization’s responsive monthly software updates are designed to respond to it’s client changing needs and serve them better.

Ready to see how Campus Cafe can improve your school’s financial aid management? Contact us for a demo today.

Cybersecurity | Student Information System

Cybersecurity Practices that Safeguard Student Data

Colleges, universities, trade and vocational schools are gatekeepers for a significant amount of sensitive data on their students, employees and vendors. A cybersecurity breach is not only disastrous and disruptive for the school, but its impacts can potentially ruin an individual’s credit.

Schools process and store significant amounts of personal and financial data that’s spread across admissions, billing, financial aid, and the registrar’s office. Consider this data snapshot: A student record includes at a minimum such personal information as a student’s name, date of birth, Social Security number and email address.

Higher education is an enticing target for cybercriminals, especially schools that have an outdated IT infrastructure. A cloud-based student information system is a good first line of defense and working with a trusted and experienced technology partner can help further fortify your institution with proper cybersecurity training, best practices and contingency plans.

This post will cover what you need to know about higher education cybersecurity to safeguard data.

The bottom line: Work with an experienced, dedicated partner

How do cyber attacks impact higher education?

The free flow of information is the bedrock of a well-functioning institution, with students, faculty, and staff sharing documents and files. But that communication also makes protecting student data and system security a challenge. Combine the various users with extensive personal information and student records, and the cybersecurity risks pile up:

Financial Risk: A cyberattack can be highly disruptive and costly. If your school is hit by ransomware, the costs can be staggering. According to a report from digital security firm Sophos, half of higher education institutions hit by a ransomware attack paid to restore their data, and the average cost was $1.42 million.

There are also costs associated with penalties and fines from regulatory agencies, as well as expenses necessary to restore operations.

Operational Risk: Many schools struggle to return to normal operations after a cybersecurity event. According to Sophos, 40% took more than a month to recover, which was higher than the global industry average of 20%. Even after paying a ransom, only 2% of schools got all their data back, while 60% reported they restored some data.

Reputational Risk: A cyber attack is bad press for your school. Students, staff, prospects and alumni will be concerned about their data and for good reason. If a cyber attack hits your school, your team must spend time and resources communicating with stakeholders to address their concerns. Then, you’ll need to rebuild their confidence.

What are the most common cyber threats in higher education?

Cybercriminals can attack your school’s systems in multiple ways. Below are the most common dangers to be aware of and what to train your staff to be vigilant about.

Malware: This is software designed to infiltrate a computer system and steal or disrupt services.

Ransomware: A type of malware in which a cybercriminal gains access to a computer system or files and locks the administrators out, demanding a ransom to release or restore the data. 

Higher education is particularly vulnerable to ransomware attacks. Among Sophos respondents, 64 percent of schools said they had suffered a ransomware attack, and nearly three-quarters of those attacks were successful.  

Phishing: A cyber tactic in which a bad actor gets access to a user’s computer or data by tricking them into opening or clicking a link in an email or sharing information. 

Phishing is a pervasive problem: More than 90% of all cyber attacks across all industries start as phishing against unsuspecting victims. Once they have access, the criminals can steal data or deploy malware.  

Internal threats: If employees store credit card information or Social Security Numbers on their computer desktop or leave it in their email inbox or outbox, that data is not secured and could be vulnerable. Remind your employees to delete emails and empty their trash. Sometimes, users with access to sensitive material may steal and use data illegally. 

What are Practices to Safeguard Student Data

The best defense against cyberattacks is a potent offense. Campus Cafe recommends that schools take the following measures: 

Training, training, training 

The more training your staff, students and even parents receive on information security, the more secure your school’s information will be. Train your users to identify suspicious emails and never open them. No one should email asking for personal information, passwords, bank account information and credit card numbers. Create an inbox where employees can forward suspicious emails or let them know who to contact. Proactive training can significantly reduce your school’s exposure to phishing. Security companies and agencies, such as Knowbe4, can offer online training services for your employees.

Audit your system

Many institutions rely on their SIS partner to manage the cloud security for their student information system. A reputable SIS cloud vendor will regularly perform these services on their cloud environment. However, that won’t protect your school’s  internal network or other IT infrastructure. To determine potential threats, have your IT team or a third-party company audit your systems. Perform a pen test, which evaluates your network infrastructure, and other security procedures, including password management, permission maintenance, data storage and backup procedures. At a minimum, your school wants to audit its systems annually and that will provide a roadmap for how to shore up your defenses.  .

Toughen up your security

An audit will give your school a detailed assessment of the holes in your security, but there are also common measures your institution should have in place to fortify your systems. Administrators can tighten users’ access to data via permissions. It’s also good practice to install a multi-factor authentication (MFA) system, which requires users to confirm their identity or password on a second device. Additionally, you can require users to create secure passwords with a longer string over eight characters with numbers, symbols, and letters that are changed frequently. 

Delete sensitive information

Your staff has been trained to shred paper with sensitive information and the same rules apply to electronic correspondence. If personal or financial information such as Social Security or credit card numbers are sent via email, employees should immediately delete the email and empty their trash. If the information goes into a document or spreadsheet, that should be deleted once the data is processed. Information left in email inboxes or on computer desktops is not secure and easy for a cybercriminal to access. 

Limit permissions

To create layers of security, your school can restrict access to sensitive information. Only provide permission to staff who regularly need access to do their jobs. The golden rule is to give employees the fewest permissions to do their job. You can always grant more access as required. 

Upgrade to off-site, cloud-based storage

A cloud-based student information system like Campus Cafe Software is backed up daily and encrypts all your data, which gives you peace of mind that your information is safe and secure. If you are attacked, you can restore your data from a real-time backup on the cloud.

A legacy SIS that uses on-site servers and storage is more vulnerable to cyberattacks and breakdowns, which can impact security and your ability to restore data after a breach. 

Understand and Follow FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 limits access to educational information and records. To protect students’ privacy, the federal government requires schools to safeguard student records and maintain FERPA compliance. If schools are not compliant, they can face fines. Adhering to FERPA is a good business practice, too, as it fortifies your school against cyber criminals.

Why you should work with a trusted tech partner

When you have a trusted technology partner on your side, you’re not alone in the fight against cyber attacks. Your school’s student information system is part of your first line of defense and your SIS vendor can help train and support your team.  

When a school is evaluating SIS vendors, we recommend the following considerations:  

  1. Train your team on cybersecurity and information security, recognizing and avoiding threats, and what to do if they are concerned about a breach. Update training annually and require that new employees receive full training.

  2. Make sure you have up-to-date plans for both response and recovery. If your school is attacked and loses data, your SIS vendor can restore information from your latest backup. Will you pay the ransom, and if so, what is your insurance coverage? Find out how long that will take and if there will be any additional expenses. Outline a strategy to communicate with students, staff, and any impacted third parties.

  3. Ask your SIS partner about their security protocols, including MFA and frequently updating passwords. Be sure your IT team and administrators understand how to manage and assign permissions and whom to contact at the SIS provider if they have questions or problems.

  4. Review your SIS provider’s plans to enforce best security practices and protect personal information. Do they use MFA? How often do they upgrade server and system security? What are their disaster plans?

  5. How is financial and billing information maintained? Campus Cafe, for example, does not store billing information in the SIS and integrates with trusted third-party encrypted payment and authorization apps, including Paypal and DocuSign, which comply with Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards.

The Bottom Line: Work With an Experienced, Dedicated Partner

At Campus Cafe, we understand that our partner customers need the strongest protections. We are dedicated to providing the highest-level information security and supporting our clients’ training and data security needs.
We follow strict 2FA protocols, ensure our servers are secure, train our staff regularly on the best information security standards, and follow the highest access and password maintenance standards.

To see how Campus Cafe can improve your school’s cyber defenses and keep your sensitive data secure, contact us for a demo today.

Digital Document Management System | SIS Features

From enrollment and financial aid applications to third-party contracts, payroll reports and student transcripts, schools have an abundant paper trail. While it may be inefficient, costly and cumbersome, schools are often required by law and internal policies to keep hard copies for a period of time, often up to five years. 

So, while paper documents aren’t going away, digital document management is the future. To improve document visibility, promote better collaboration, enhance security and minimize storage space, more schools are upgrading their digital document management processes. 

In this post, we will cover:

Benefits of a Digital Documentation Management System​

Campus Cafe Software’s integrated student information system has unlimited document storage that’s easy to navigate and keep organized. Moving toward digitization is the right move for a variety of reasons.

1. Improved efficiency

When you have readily accessible digital documents, staff from any department can search the centralized cloud database and retrieve what they need quickly and easily. While they’re at it, they can edit and share information with a few clicks. 

Since digital documents are so easy to access, they improve student data management because it requires less time and resources than searching for paper files and manually making changes.

Alternatively, if you don’t want staff accessing certain documents, protections can be put in place (more on that in #3).

2. Cost savings

When your school creates digital copies, it reduces the need for paper, printing and personnel to manage all those files. You’ll still need hard copies, but they can live relatively undisturbed in a filing cabinet. 

Digitized information is easier to share, edit and distribute, which cuts down on expenses for printing, mailing or resources to scan and upload forms.

3. Enhanced security

Keeping track of hard copies can be challenging and that’s a big security risk. Some files go into proper folders, but others are discarded or left on the printer. Files often have students’ and employees’ sensitive personal information and documents that can be copied or stolen are cause for concern. 

When you reduce your reliance on paper documents, it improves security. Digital files can be restricted with access controls, two-party authentication, digital encryption or passwords. That fortifies your school against a cyber attack and protects sensitive data from theft or unauthorized users. Storing documents in the cloud also provides an additional layer of document protection.

4. Collaboration across departments

Digital documents will help your staff work faster and more accurately. Users can access the most updated versions from a common database and a single source of truth. Then, they can share as needed with colleagues. This process facilitates better collaboration and coordination while improving efficiency. No more sifting through files to find a contract or record. 

5. Better compliance and reporting

If a school participates in the Title IV federal financial aid program it is required to regularly report data to the federal government and accrediting bodies, which is a labor-intensive and detailed process. 

Digital document management helps simplify compliance requirements and reporting. Staff can easily search and access data and information needed for reports. 

6. Rapid disaster recovery

When a man-made or natural disaster disrupts campus operations, digital documents allow your school to keep functioning. Staff can access important files and share vital information. In addition, cloud-based storage is a secure, off-site backup for your files, ensuring you won’t lose documents and can get back to business sooner. 

7. Better decision-making

Digital documents offer users across departments the most recent data in real time. Working from a single source of truth improves accuracy and helps your staff manage and analyze critical information.  

Further, digital document management helps ensure version control so everyone works from the most updated documents.

How Schools Can Implement a Digital Document Management System

If you’re picturing a room overflowing with file envelopes in a dusty building basement, you’re not wrong. Storing records is a logistical headache and a drain on resources. Schools need dedicated space for files and staff to keep everything (relatively) organized and accessible, and to help employees track down records.

Digital document management systems help keep student data organized, secure and easily accessible.

While schools can’t vanquish paper, they can augment their document management systems with digital versions. From admissions to financial aid to the registrar, nearly every department can benefit from digital document storage and management (more on that later). 

To start, you’ll need to convert paper files to digital, a process that requires time and resources. First, your staff needs to digitize existing records. They can scan or photograph files and upload them to the cloud. If that’s not an option, records can be manually converted to digital, but that’s a particularly time-consuming (and potentially error-prone) task. 

Going forward, once your school commits to digital documentation, staff can follow procedures to convert documents. When a hard copy of a file comes in, an employee makes a digital copy. If records or documentation are submitted electronically, the digital file gets saved to a centralized, cloud-based location and the physical printout is filed.

Why Schools Still Maintain Paper Documents

Under some federal and state requirements, and individual school policies, higher education institutions must maintain paper records for key functions, students, employees and contractors for a period of time. 

For instance, the federal government mandates that schools keep a minimum of three years of records related to Federal Student Aid programs, including student performance, distribution of funds and data on enrollment. 

Additionally, many schools maintain students’ physical records up to five years after graduation or the date of a student’s last enrollment. 

Institutions may also be required to keep documentation on employees and contractors, such as a personnel file, tax forms, performance reviews and work contracts. Some records have to be retained for a minimum of seven years.

Campus Cafe’s Student Document Management System

While your school can’t go paperless just yet, digital document management reduces your dependency on hard copies, improves communication and collaboration, and strengthens security for sensitive information. 

Campus Cafe Software’s student information system offers the latest functions and security all in one integrated system. Here are some of the features:

  • Integrated storage: While some student information systems require a third-party app to pull in documents, Campus Cafe’s system includes document management for seamless operations and cloud-based access.  
  • Customizable: Our document management system can work with a variety of automation rules, workflows and integrations.
    • Documents can be assigned to workflows that trigger notifications or activities, such as approvals or reminders. 
    • Users can configure document requirements for access and uploading
    • Unlimited documents means your team can create as many files as needed
    • Capable of integration with digital signatures through DocuSigh, a third-party integration, so users don’t have to leave the system to sign documents.
  • Cloud-based: Digital documents are stored in a single location on the cloud, eliminating the need for on-site servers.
  • Unlimited storage: Your team can convert an unlimited amount of paper files to digital and create new documents at no extra cost.
  • Easy-to-use system: Allows users to attach as many records, file types and documents to a student’s file as needed. Ability to quickly search and open files with a single click. 
  • Integrated CRM: Allows prospects, applicants, students and parents to attach digital files to a student’s application and record. Reduces emailing attachments or sending physical hard copies.

The Bottom Line: Digital Documents are the Future of Student Data Management

Digital files just make better business sense. By moving to an SIS with integrated digital document management, your school can simplify data access, streamline file management and improve security. This helps your team better manage student information while facilitating better practices for compliance and campus management. Ready to see how Campus Cafe’s integrated, cloud-based document management system can transform your school? Contact us for a demo today.