Why your school needs an integrated CRM.

Communications and outreach to prospects, leads, students and alumni are best kept in a central repository like a CRM, also known as Customer Relationship Management software. It helps departments work more efficiently and reduces redundant outreach that could annoy recipients. 

But not all CRMs are alike. A college, university or trade school needs campus CRM software that’s designed specifically for higher education. In this article, we’ll dive into some core topics related to choosing a higher education CRM for student management. Here’s what we’ll cover:

What is CRM software?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “CRM” tossed around, but let’s ensure you understand what it is and how it can help your institution. A CRM is software that allows users to manage communication and provide status updates among internal employees, external customers and other constituents. In higher education, this may include staff, faculty, administrators, students, alumni and other organizations. 

The main components of what a CRM records include:

  • Sending communications by email, text, phone, chat and mail
  • Scheduling appointments or events
  • Generating notifications and reminders
  • Recording notes
  • Uploading and managing documents  

Here’s an example: Each time your recruiting staff sends an email to a prospective student, that action is recorded in the system. Then, it activates a reminder to follow up with that student by email, phone, or text at a set time or interval. 

If the student responds, the system logs that activity. The real-time exchange of information means your admissions team is continually updated and no activity falls through the cracks.

What makes campus CRM software different?

When looking for a CRM, you’ll find there are a lot of options. The most crucial factor should be finding software designed for a higher education campus. Most CRMs are intended to help businesses that sell to other businesses, and they serve those companies very well. 

But higher education requires different functions and capabilities. For instance, the admissions department’s application management needs to connect to billing, financial aid and enrollment. 

Campus CRM software has fields and functions that are designed specifically for your purposes and trigger actions customized for your activities. When you partner with a technology provider that specializes in higher education, they speak your language and understand your business. For example, they understand the demographic data requirements for IPEDS and document requirements for applicants. Speaking the same language helps make implementation, training, and support run faster and more smoothly.

Choosing Between Integrated and Standalone CRMs

When deciding on a CRM you have two options:

  1. An integrated, all-in-one student information system with a built-in CRM.
  2. A standalone CRM from a third-party provider that must be connected to your student information system. 

Integrated CRM

When you choose a student information system with a built-in or integrated CRM, there are many benefits over the standalone options. Most importantly, every department in your institution can access the same information from a single source of truth

In contrast, when an institution selects a standalone or external CRM, it’s primarily for admissions, career services or fundraising. The registrar’s office, student services, finance and financial aid departments are left out. That cuts out staff who need access to the system and can benefit from its features.

Another bonus to an integrated CRM is that all the information is available to all users. It’s unusual for a third-party system to share all of the necessary data with a separate student information system. When you use a student information system with an integrated CRM for higher education, you have peace of mind that your data is easily accessible.

Standalone CRM

The two most common reasons why a school opts for a standalone CRM is either their current student information system doesn’t offer one or they’ve chosen a CRM with a slick interface and a lot of bells and whistles. 

But unfortunately, a slick CRM rarely works well with most student information systems. It’s difficult to connect all the fields that the two systems need to share and it’s challenging to connect the many activities, including documents and data fields, and keep them up to date. 

Consider this scenario: When a software change happens in one system, it must be propagated into the other system. With all the different CRMs and student information systems on the market, the easiest way to manage that is to limit the number of fields that are shared. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of today’s software market, and your school loses out.

The bottom line is that a standalone CRM has serious limitations. 

How Each Department on Campus Benefits From a Built-In CRM

With an integrated CRM, there’s no need to worry that your data will be lost or that some users won’t have access to the most recent information. With an inclusive student information system, the CRM is built into the suite of features and lives in the same ecosystem. That means more accessibility, reliability and fewer headaches. 

Across campus, multiple departments will benefit from an all-in-one CRM for higher education that is part of an integrated student information system.


The admissions department is the starting line for all of your school’s data. Admissions information needs to be properly logged and monitored, otherwise prospects and admitted students could miss out on important notifications, communications and deadlines. And, if that happens, it has a negative effect on your institution’s enrollment. 

Within admissions, three user groups benefit from an integrated CRM:

Marketing: Your marketing team needs a reliable system to track events, plan and budget for programs, record communications with prospects and coordinate with other staff in admissions. Staff is typically juggling online, social media and in-person marketing efforts, and a CRM allows it all to be recorded, so they can follow up with potential candidates. 

The data is also useful for analyzing your marketing efforts to see what’s working. For instance, if virtual open houses are attracting more candidates than on-campus events, your team may decide to hold more frequent digital gatherings. 

Recruiting: Once a potential student has engaged with your marketing efforts, the recruiting team takes over communications. These interactions must be logged and tracked to ensure prospects don’t fall through the cracks. Recruiters can monitor leads from different sources in one platform and keep organized follow-up records.

Application management: When a prospect applies to your school, a CRM for higher education is critical to managing documents, payments and communications. Each action a prospective student takes will trigger another notification or request. 

An integrated CRM can follow a prospect from initial contact through the application process and help your team get them across the finish line to enrollment.

Student Finance

The secret to any good business is accurate billing and timely payment collection, and higher ed is no different. 

Your billing and finance teams benefit significantly from the most reliable software to record and track payments, outstanding bills, late fees and overpayments. With an integrated CRM, your finance team can easily take action, such as sending out invoices, reaching out to overdue students and triggering notifications once a student has submitted a payment. 

Even better, the finance team can work more closely with the admissions, financial aid and registrar’s office. They can access all internal and external communications to ensure the student is being served efficiently.

Financial Aid

An integrated CRM can be invaluable for managing student financial aid. Like the admissions team, a financial aid advisor might have many interactions with the student that requires scheduling appointments, taking notes and creating reminders. 

A CRM can also automatically trigger the document requirements based on the ISIR and notify the financial aid team when the documents have been uploaded.

An integrated CRM also streamlines the communication for the financial aid lifecycle. Notifications are triggered internally and externally when the aid is ready for packaging, origination and disbursement. 

Registrar and Student Services Office

The registrar’s office holds the lion’s share of a school’s data and information. This department not only processes and analyzes information on students, courses, degrees and alumni, but it’s also responsible for key decisions on scheduling and course offerings. 

For example, the registrar and their assistants can use a CRM to communicate with students about course changes, set advisor appointments and take notes. 

For smaller institutions in particular, the registrar is responsible for student retention. So if a student is falling behind, the CRM can dispatch a notification to schedule a meeting with the student.


From keeping in touch with alumni to fundraising and fulfilling government reporting requirements, non-profit colleges, universities and trade schools can drastically improve data management with an all-in-one CRM. 

Career placement

Under federal regulations, career and trade schools are required to report on their graduates’ career placement. That includes tracking how long it takes to find employment and where they’re working. 

Without a CRM, it’s very challenging to collect and store this information. And once a student graduates, it can be difficult to get them to respond to information requests. 

An integrated CRM can streamline those communications by enabling automatic notifications, follow-ups, and reminders to the student and your career services team.


Raising funds and gifts from alumni, companies, and organizations is essential for non-profit colleges and universities. Donations help fund scholarships, subsidize programs, and enable construction projects and facility upgrades. 

To fundraise successfully, your school needs to maintain an up-to-date database of alumni and constituent contacts. For fundraising events, gift campaigns or any alumni development activity, a CRM allows your alumni office to easily manage the outreach along with thank you letters and gift receipt confirmation notices.

The Bottom Line

A university, college or trade school is a complex operation that needs software designed to keep its work flowing smoothly. A higher education CRM that is integrated into a student information system will help your school track its data and projects campus-wide, allowing teams and departments to better collaborate and keep projects, reporting, and admissions on track and on point. 

Ready to see how Campus Cafe Software’s higher education CRM can improve your student data management? Contact us for a demo


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