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Three ways to boost growth against the odds in higher education

Posted by  Austin Laird

Despite mounting challenges, some higher education institutions are bucking the trend and increasing growth, writes Unit4’s product director for higher education, Austin Laird.

Higher education has become a battleground beyond academics. So, what are top-rated higher education institutions doing that separates them from the pack? Here are three simple things.

1. Bringing customer service to student relationships

Leading colleges are using new-generation student information system (SIS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools to improve the student experience, by addressing their needs in similar ways that companies nurture customer relationships in the commercial world.

Strong data insight capabilities enable higher education institutions to understand each student’s journey more fully. It starts before they even begin their studies; colleges can leverage existing data to identify target demographics and behaviors for recruitment campaigns to focus efforts on the best-fit candidates for their school.

Then, once prospects become students, leading colleges continue to use data insights, building powerful metrics to track performance and indicators – highlighting when members of the community may need additional support.

By identifying risk indicators more quickly, institutions can help their students get back on track towards success before they fall significantly behind, and improve the institution’s performance metrics too.

2. Putting people at the heart of decision-making

Advanced reporting and analytics are an effective way to improve institutional planning and can help identify opportunities to streamline the daily processes that dominate your people’s workloads.

For academic staff and students, program metrics and milestones – such as dissertation submissions, practical assessments and clinical hours – can be easily tracked and recorded. Degree audit and shopping tools are also being used to check and share the progress of students, or to help them discover other paths that may be open to them.

For non-academic staff, too, the right administrative technology significantly improves recruitment and admissions, automates outreach communications and streamlines the application process, including supporting documentation. This reduces tedious manual tasks and overall costs, ultimately boosting engagement. For successful applications, student information can be flowed directly into enrollment and integrated with curriculum management, because all operations are run through a single, central system.

3. Scrutinizing costs and improving compliance

New-generation technology is transforming financial and compliance requirements in higher education, too. It is making it easier to manage data privacy requirements and payment obligations, including data for students receiving financial aid. Reporting tools can add value beyond internal insights, as finance staff are able to run analyses that demonstrate compliance with the latest statutory mandates, for accounting and legal purposes, in real-time and without technical support.  

Analysis of program and course performance are also being carefully scrutinized by the leaders in higher education, to proactively make better, and quicker, programming and resourcing decisions based on real data. This way, academic institutions are operating profitably while still offering students a range of options that keep up to changing expectations.

Strong foundations for the future

Rather than making do with legacy systems, it’s time that schools and colleges invested in the enterprise technology that can provide them with a sustainable platform for growth.

By centralizing all activities into one platform, your people will be able to do their jobs quickly and simply, while offering even better support and services to help your students achieve their goals.

To read more about technology innovation in higher education, download the e-guide: Winning against all odds to accelerate institutional growth.

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To learn more about the challenges facing HE and discover how embracing the right technology can help, download the industry brochure: NEW GAME NEW RULES — The stark reality of a disrupted market and how next-generation institutions are reacting.

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Austin Laird

Austin has been a part of the higher education industry for over 20 years, in a wide range of roles from a university registrar assistant to product manager and industry technology strategist. Prior to Unit4, he held multiple pre-sales, product and leadership roles at Oracle, including Global Director, Education & Research Technology. Austin joined Unit4’s Higher Education team in 2018 as product director for Unit4 Student Management.