Career and trade schools are training the next generation of skilled professionals, and they’re one of the fastest growing sectors in higher education. That’s welcome news for school administrators, but it also means managing a complex web of data, reporting and information.
Behind the scenes, there’s a lot to juggle. The most successful career and trade schools use an integrated student information system (SIS) to track the entire student life cycle, from attendance, grades and payments to government reporting, finance and business office functions.
With skyrocketing tuition and strong demand for skilled labor, prospective students are opting for career and trade schools over traditional four-year post-secondary programs. They offer a fast-tracked path to a stable and well-paying career, and the credits can sometimes be transferable to two- or four-year colleges.
With a scalable and integrated SIS, a career or trade school will run more efficiently and be better positioned for future growth. Sounds like a winning proposition, right? Let’s explore some of the reporting challenges school administrators face and digital solutions to help.
Five Administrative Challenges for Career and Trade Schools
Across industries, career and trade schools are expanding their offerings and increasing enrollments. To keep up, both administrative and student-facing departments need digital solutions and software to manage the current student population, alumni and future prospects. Each department should work from a single source of data when accessing student records, financial aid, attendance, billing and more. Students also need easy access to their transcripts, grades, coursework and communication.
Surprisingly, 72 percent of higher education institutions in the U.S. still use on-site legacy software systems that are more than 20 years old, according to a 2021 study by The Tambellini Group.
With outdated systems – or different divisions and departments operating their own disparate platforms – career and trade schools face a lot of challenges when it comes to managing and reporting student information. :
Challenge 1: Tracking Time-Based Attendance
Career schools are required to track attendance, but it’s challenging to record accurately when schools rely on outdated, in-person attendance systems or students are enrolled in online courses.
Wall clock hardware is difficult to integrate with an SIS, mobile apps are pricey, and paper rosters create extra work and are error-prone.
Attendance is a critical component of nearly everything a school tracks, manages and reports, so it’s essential to have a reliable system that updates in real time. Today’s cloud-based SIS systems can handle all of the time clock-based attendance needs.
Challenge 2: Managing Title IV Financial Aid Reporting
Federal law requires schools to follow procedures to award, disburse and account for federal funds, and to track students’ attendance and participation in their classes. Financial disbursements are tied to the percentage of attendance (yet another reason for an accurate, integrated attendance system) and satisfactory academic progress. Schools need to report when students are present or absent, as well as when they complete make-up work for missed days. These stats have to be monitored and validated.
Career schools are required to report IPEDS data to the National Center for Education Statistics. A top-notch SIS has pre-built reports based on the latest government reporting requirements. This helps a school quickly provide regulators with a wide range of reports including attendance, financial aid, enrollment and career placement.
Challenge 3: Scheduling Asynchronous Starts and Stops
With more students working on their own schedules, schools need a system to manage their coursework within a timeframe, as well as provide access to schoolwork. When students participate in self-paced, online programs, schools still need to track and report their attendance and participation. It’s essential to have an SIS that can monitor and report asynchronous coursework, as well as integrate with Learning Management Software (LMS) systems.
Challenge 4: Collecting Placement and Employment Reporting
Career schools that access federal financial aid need to show that graduates are finding gainful employment and track placement, positions and salaries. But without a single source of data, it can be difficult to collect and maintain this data.
An SIS with an integrated CRM helps schools build and maintain a database with graduate information. This information can be accessed by multiple departments and individuals, from recruiting to marketing to alumni relations.
Additionally, Title IV-eligible programs must report debt-to-earnings rates (which an integrated SIS can help with) to show if the academic programs are placing students with the necessary jobs for repayment of the student loan.
Challenge 5: Submitting 1098-T Tax Forms
Career and trade schools are also required to report tuition and educational expenses to students and the IRS, and schools need a system to manage, publish and report this information.
Career schools are required to make the information available to their students electronically and by mail, and it must also be submitted to the federal government. With a modern SIS, school administrators can easily record and maintain the necessary data, and submit forms to students and the government.
Software Tools that Modernize Career School Reporting
To stay competitive, career and trade schools need to migrate to a cloud-based, customizable system. The right SIS system has the tools and resources to manage prospective students, current students and alumni.
A cloud-based SIS system will help departments improve compliance and run more efficiently. Pre-built reports simplify extensive reporting requirements and a single source of data promotes collaboration and communication between departments, and better technology helps grow enrollment and expand program offerings, as well as improve the student and staff experience.
Here’s how the right a SIS can can improve your school’s performance::
Show ROI With a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) Tool
The right CRM allows a school to manage prospective students from their initial contact through admissions to enrollment. Career and trade schools want a tool designed for their needs, not one built for a sales organization. A good CRM helps track recruitment, admissions, enrollment, and allows marketing and admissions departments to share information and collaborate.
Save Resources by Moving to the Cloud
No more clunky and expensive on-site systems. When a school updates its technology and IT to a cloud-based SIS, it eliminates the need for on-site technology. It also improves access and coordination between departments and schools. A cloud-based SIS is financially more efficient because your school doesn’t have to pay to maintain the infrastructure or for on-site storage. They don’t even need an on-site IT staff.
Digital Document Management
Trade and career schools require a substantial amount of documentation, reporting and file management to stay compliant. Career school administrators need a system that seamlessly organizes reports and documents that can be accessed by multiple individuals and departments whether staff is working on-site or remote.
From admissions to attendance to accounting, schools must manage, track and analyze thousands of data points related to students, staff and faculty. A library of customizable and pre-built reports allows each department to quickly track and manage what they need in real-time, and share work with internal and external stakeholders. Plus, today’s SIS software helps faculty easily manage attendance and grades.
Today’s students and administrators expect seamless web-based and mobile portals to maintain their transcripts, financial aid and other documentation. Career schools need a flexible and responsive system that allows everyone to work across all devices and platforms.
Expansive Third-Party Integrations The Right SIS System Can Fuel Growth
Trade and career schools may have other software they use for training and management, and they want an SIS to work with those systems. Third-party integrations are essential for current operations and any future software that might come into the mix.
The Right SIS System Can Fuel Growth
A cloud-based system like Campus Café can help trade and career schools grow into digital maturity. Our SIS is customizable, and it can be scaled up as a school’s needs grow and change.
When everyone works from a single source of data, it saves time, increases collaboration, improves efficiency and boosts productivity. How’s that for an excellent grade?