Data management in higher education is complicated, but getting it right is critical to your institution’s success. Schools that leverage their data insights operate more efficiently and effectively, so everyone can make data-based decisions that impact growth and retention.
From managing admissions and marketing data to complying with financial aid and career placement regulations, all staff members need to work from a unified base. It may sound like a simple task, but finding a student information system that can do it all can be as daunting as freshman orientation.
When campuses closed during the COVID-19 shutdowns and students, faculty and staff transitioned to online learning and remote work, it exposed how outdated and on-premise student information management systems lacked functionality. Today, your staff needs to access and analyze data from anywhere, on any device. Schools without a modern student information system (SIS) are now under pressure to upgrade in order to remain competitive.
Cost, ease of use and data security are the three most important considerations in evaluating the right SIS for your school, but there are other things to consider. We’ll show you how the best schools use feature-rich student information systems to manage complex webs of data, generate reports and analytics, and increase transparency across personnel and departments.
Why It’s Time to Upgrade Your Legacy Software
Despite the availability of cloud-based SISs, many schools still use on-site legacy software that is well past its prime. According to EdTech Magazine and LISTedTECH research, 75 percent of post-secondary schools are using SISs that are more than 10 years old, while another study from the Tambellinii Group reports that nearly three-quarters of higher-ed systems are more than 20 years old. That’s like using a cell phone from 2002 that might still work, but it’s missing all the latest technology features of newer models. (Do you even remember what kind of cell phone you had in 2002? Could it even text?)
Legacy systems often don’t talk to other systems or programs, which results in inconsistent data. In fact, at many schools, different departments work on separate platforms that don’t integrate at all, including one for processing payments, one for marketing and communications, and another for student services. That mash-up of platforms creates inefficiencies and can result in errors and bad data.
An on-site system is also taxing on your staff and internal resources. It can require specialized expertise to implement, maintain and manage, diverting IT staff away from more strategic or business critical functions. It’s also expensive to maintain, operate and upgrade. Additionally, older systems can lack the beefed-up security measures to protect your data and student records. When all of your information is stored in one location on local servers, it is vulnerable to data breaches and cyber attacks.
Small and midsize schools simply don’t have the budget or staff to support maintaining a legacy system, and sourcing a modern SIS is a time-consuming process.
The good news: It’s not too late! A modern, cloud-based SIS is a customizable and scalable alternative. It can relieve many of the headaches associated with legacy systems and vastly improves data management, storage and access.
Six Ways a Cloud-Based Student Information Management System Solves Legacy Tech Problems
A fully integrated SIS is a single source of truth from which the entire student lifecycle can be managed.
Ready to learn how? Let’s look at how a cloud-based system relieves some common problems associated with legacy software.
- Student Lifecycle Management: Store, Manage and Track Student Data
Post-secondary schools tend to have onerous reporting and data requirements. With a cloud-based SIS, you create a single data source to store, manage and track information. That improves communication between departments that need to collaborate, from marketing to recruitment, application management, course registration, billing, transcripts, financial aid disbursement, career tracking, alumni development, fundraising, student attendance and class rosters.
When everyone in the institution has access to the same information on one platform, they’re working off unified data. This is what’s known as a single source of truth. It not only improves their work and facilitates better communication internally and with students, but a pre-built library of reports allows each department to quickly track and manage what they need in real-time, and share it with internal and external sources.
- Lower Costs and Faster Deployment
Legacy systems are expensive to maintain, patch and upgrade. But when you subscribe to a SaaS solution, the costs are more predictable and easier to budget for. Like most SaaS solutions, pricing for a cloud-based SIS is a monthly subscription based on the number of full-time enrolled students. This means that the total cost of ownership for a cloud solution is generally cheaper than on-premise technology.
What’s more, the implementation for a SaaS solution is faster too because the work happens off-site. Your data is input, organized and stored off-site and applications are web-based. This eliminates the need for a resource-intensive onsite implementation and data entry training. And with a web-based SIS, you don’t need to make further investments on-site, as upgrades and updates are simply delivered to your system.
- Tech Support When You Need It
Let’s face it, when you migrate to a new platform, even the most seasoned IT pros need help, and your staff and students will need support too. With a SaaS solution, you have access to an extensive online knowledge center, as well as 24-7 help desk support.
Your SIS vendor’s IT team has full, secure access to the school’s environment online to expedite a diagnosis and fix any bugs or discrepancies. That gives your team the highest level of support and service, and frees up your IT staff to focus on other work.
- Explore an Ecosystem of Third-party Integrations
Many schools rely on third-party solutions for specific functions, including marketing, payments and learning management systems (LMSs) and those aren’t going away. Since even the most comprehensive SIS can’t cover everything, third-party platforms are necessary for certain functions.
A modern SIS can seamlessly integrate these platforms and software into the system. That gives your staff access to the most accurate data and information, and cuts down on confusion and technical problems.
- Online and Onsite Training for New Users
Once you’ve selected an SIS, your IT professionals and any staff who will be using the platform need training online and on-site. When a vendor provides that service, your IT team can focus on the transition and implementation.
A SaaS solution lets staff participate in a combination of training opportunities, including remote and on-site training, an online knowledge base, recorded videos and real-time instructor-led tutorials.
- Peace of Mind With Automatic Security Updates
Between data breaches, bugs, phishing and cyberattacks, there’s a lot that can go wrong. You need to protect your students’ personal information, as well as your school’s data. Legacy software is vulnerable to security breaches and upgrades must be executed on premises. That maintenance can be inefficient and expensive.
With cloud-based systems, security is continuously monitored and updates are managed remotely. That gives you peace of mind that your system is secure and monitored. And in the event of a breach, your data is backed up for efficient recovery.
What to Consider When Evaluating a Student Information System (SIS)
When you’re looking for a cloud-based SIS, you need to create a playbook to get everyone on the same page, from the executive team to school administrators. A modern, high-performing SIS doesn’t have to break your school’s IT budget.
Campus Cafe offers a fully integrated system specifically designed and priced for small and mid-sized schools to manage prospects, current students and alumni data in one cloud-based platform. From implementation to ongoing support, our team is dedicated to providing the highest-quality customer service.
Now, doesn’t that sound like a winning plan?