How can higher education organizations build data resilience after a year of unpredictable social, economic, and environmental impact? The past year brought declining admission and enrollment rates, budgetary shortfalls, and new regulations calling for accelerated digital transformation. Colleges and universities are now rethinking what higher education will look like moving forward. In the coming academic year, colleges and universities will need to identify ways to protect their organizations against future disruptions caused by unforeseen changes in federal regulations, safety requirements, job markets, and skills gaps.
The primary hurdle that colleges and universities must overcome is the transition to digitize their processes. Many organizations still adhere to traditional processes that are in-person or paper-based which result in time and resources wasted. However, small investments that modernize these processes can bring large-scale improvements to organizations. By reducing administrative overhead and gaining valuable insights on how to adjust programs and services, schools will be able to enhance student enrollment, retention, and experience.
Up until three years ago, administration at USC Marshall relied on a manual email system to correspond with prospective students. With more than 10,000 applicants each year, responding to students and tracking engagement data became a very time-consuming process. In 2018, USC Marshall modernized this process by upgrading the email link on their website to an online form. The form sent automated responses to students and saved all response data to the university’s CRM system, Salesforce. With this enhancement to their data collection process, USC Marshall was able to better manage the lifecycle of each applicant and deliver tailored information and updates. In addition, the forms were equipped with federal compliance standards including FERPA, GDPR, and GLBA, which ensured proper data stewardship for student information.
Because digital transformation is key to strengthening processes and building resilience, investing in simple, easy-to-implement technologies can improve admission rates and enrollment. Olivet Nazarene University, for example, increased their enrollment by 850% when they digitized their student experience with an automated application process and online curriculum alternative.
Automating student data and enrollment processes also means that universities will have bandwidth to address other demanding student needs, especially as new issues arise as a result of economic and social changes. When the COVID-19 pandemic brought emergency relief funding for students facing pandemic-related hardships, organizations were under tight timelines to assess student data such as financial aid eligibility, access to technology, and transportation needs. To facilitate rapid distribution of relief funds, the University of Florida (UF) created a platform where students could apply for direct financial relief. Using a web form and data workflow builder that integrated with existing tools such as Salesforce, UF quickly collected data and assessed eligibility to process over 12,000 applications and distribute $10 million. The university received responses that also provided insight on how they could offer other beneficial, safe, and helpful options to students in need.
When organizations have enough information to paint a broader picture of student circumstances, they become better informed on how they can proactively serve current and future student populations. As another example of this, UC Merced invested in an online form system to address long lines for student services appointments and streamline their appointment booking process. Other departments at UC Merced were also able to use this system to create and manage their own forms so that students could book appointments directly with their advisors. With broader access to data that provides insights on student interests, UC Merced is better equipped to improve the student experience.
Useful data that is readily accessible to administrators and educators is the first step in the path to resilience for colleges and universities. To learn more about how implementing a data collection solution can help higher education organizations, watch FormAssembly’s webinar “How to Improve Student Processes with Salesforce + Web Forms.”