Guide to Higher Education CRM + 10 Best CRM Software for Universities Inside

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    Higher education institutions are constantly challenged by the sheer amount of data and communications they need to process. Every day, administration and academic staff engage with students, other universities, and professors to keep the educational process running.

    While Customer Relationship Management may not be the first thing you associate with student populations, it's undoubtedly vital for supporting the volume of operations at colleges and universities.

    In this article, we explain what CRM for education entails, what benefits it brings, and offer a list of CRM platforms for higher education institutions that offer the features necessary for managing student data and empower the staff of educational institutions to handle everyday tasks.

    What is a CRM for Higher Education?

    Customer relationship management (CRM) software for higher education helps educational institutions like colleges and universities manage their relationships with students, parents, staff, alumni, and other stakeholders, through data management and workflow automation.

    CRM for higher education covers all aspects of the student lifecycle, including admissions process, enrollment, academic progress tracking, and post-graduation communication. A CRM platform centralizes all student data and makes it accessible to various departments and admin staff, allowing them to quickly react to student requests and actions.

    Internally, a CRM for education streamlines cross-department communication, while externally it allows universities to stay in consistent contact with their partners and funders.

    In addition to that, a CRM for higher education can connect with other essential educational tools, such as learning management systems (LMS) and accounting software, to further support student journey.

    Here's a list of common use cases for a CRM for higher education:

    • Organize student information and make it easily accessible
    • Automate communication with students, alumni, and partners
    • Create marketing campaigns targeted at prospective students
    • Manage students' admissions process and enrollment
    • Track students’ academic progress
    • Monitor the payment of tuition
    • Organize and track the success of events
    • Analyze the performance of your institution

    There are many more cases when a CRM for higher education can help optimize educational processes, which completely depend on your own operational strategy. In the next section, we will go through the frequent benefits a CRM platform can bring to higher education institutions.

    Benefits of CRM for Higher Education

    Customer relationship management software has truly become indispensable for higher education institutions – you can't handle all the student information and communication with Excel spreadsheets and Outlook folders. In addition to eliminating data silos and human errors, a CRM for education offers a multitude of benefits for both students and universities.

    Increased visibility of information for faster decision-making

    A CRM solution allows you to organize student information and manage access, enabling multiple departments to collaborate in real time. That allows professors and administrative staff to quickly make decisions regarding the student's academic activity, for example, schedule appointments and approve sabbatical requests.

    Based on the student information available, advisors can provide personalized guidance, recommend courses, and intervene proactively if academic performance starts to decline.

    Coupled with a student information system, a CRM for higher education can also be used by students. They can access their grades and the credit requirements necessary for graduation, get notified about new academic opportunities, and stay informed about important deadlines and events, all in one centralized platform.

    Improved student engagement

    There are multiple ways in which a higher education CRM system can enhance the student experience.

    Firstly, it helps reduce response times for student inquiries. For example, when prospective students fill out a form on the institution's website, they receive an automated response with additional information right away. If they have more questions, the CRM notifies staff members and assigns the conversation to the appropriate employee.

    Secondly, an integrated CRM platform empowers you to provide personalized student experiences. The amount of data you're able to gather like demographics, course preferences, academic interests, etc., enables you to design individual recommendations for each student.

    Prospective and current students can receive relevant marketing information advertising educational opportunities that match their interests. For example, a biology student that picked a course in biochemistry can automatically receive an email with other open courses on the topic and future conferences dedicated to this subject.

    All in all, the combination of CRM automation and data analysis allows higher education institutions to provide personalized and smooth student experience, positively influencing student retention.

    Enhanced productivity

    A CRM platform plays a pivotal role in enhancing productivity for higher education institutions by streamlining various administrative processes and facilitating better communication across departments.

    Workflow automation eliminates repetitive tasks such as data entry and scheduling, freeing up academics to focus on more meaningful engagements with students. Faculty members can devote more time to mentoring, research, and teaching, thereby enriching the educational experience for students.

    The centralized source of information allows staff members to quickly retrieve necessary data without navigating complex bureaucratic structures. The CRM supports more agile responses to student needs and institutional challenges. Ultimately, optimizing workflows and improving data accessibility empowers higher education institutions to operate more efficiently.

    For example, the CRM can be used to automate the post-admission onboarding process. This includes providing checklists of tasks to complete before enrollment (such as submitting housing applications, registering for orientation, and enrolling in classes) and introducing them to student services. Prospective students can prepare for the academic year at their own pace, without the need to fit into the schedule of university administration.

    Improved admissions and enrollment process

    CRM automation significantly improves the admissions and enrollment processes by automating approvals, document submissions, and notifications. For instance, a CRM system can promptly alert a prospective student about any missing documents required for their application.

    By centralizing applicant data and interactions, CRM platforms enable staff members to coordinate efforts, share insights, and provide holistic support to applicants throughout the admissions cycle.

    Moreover, CRM software makes the admissions process easier to navigate for prospective students by providing user-friendly interfaces, clear instructions, and personalized communication. Through self-service portals and automated notifications, students can easily track their application status, receive reminders for deadlines, and access relevant information about programs, requirements, and financial aid options.

    For institutions, handling admissions through CRM reduces manual effort and paperwork, leading to quicker turnaround times.

    Improved fundraising

    Since a customer relationship management platform for higher education enables consistent automated communication, it can raise the amount of donations. By building segmented automated marketing campaigns targeting alumni and potential donors, you can amplify your fundraising strategy and bring in more funds.

    With the capability to automate communication processes, CRMs ensure that universities can maintain regular engagement with their alumni network and donor base. This consistent outreach helps keep donors informed about university initiatives, events, and campaigns, fostering stronger relationships and encouraging continued support.

    CRM systems enable universities to create and automate campaigns that resonate with specific donor segments. Whether it's highlighting achievements in a particular academic department or showcasing the impact of philanthropic contributions, segmented campaigns allow universities to effectively communicate their fundraising priorities and inspire greater donor participation.

    marketing campaign management

    An example of marketing automation in CRM Creatio

    In addition to that, CRM platforms enable universities to track and analyze donor engagement and giving patterns, providing valuable insights for refining fundraising strategies and optimizing resource allocation.

    Strategy empowered by valuable data insights

    A CRM can provide insights into your current strategy and internal operations and suggest areas of improvement. By tracking key performance indicators related to admissions, enrollment, student retention, and alumni engagement, you can identify bottlenecks, streamline processes, and enhance overall organizational effectiveness.

    For instance, CRM-generated reports can reveal a prolonged response time to student inquiries or a high rate of application abandonment. In this case, institutions can implement workflow improvements or automate communication processes to address these issues.

    12 Essential Features for a Higher Education CRM System

    CRM systems enhance productivity and boost student retention, but to achieve this, they must align with the industry requirements specific to the education sector. Some CRM systems are tailored for managing the student lifecycle, yet they might fall short when it comes to operational efficiency or user-friendly design.

    To simplify the selection of a CRM platform, here's a list of essential features that are crucial for supporting both institutional and student success:

    1. The 360-degree view of a student profile allows you to access all the student information in a single dashboard, including their personal data, academic progress, active courses, relevant documents and more. This dashboard enables staff to quickly gather necessary information and respond to student inquiries.
    2. Lead management allows you to track the ways prospective students engage with your marketing campaigns and lead them further down the sales funnel with automated communication and tools like lead scoring.
    3. Admission management tools manage documents and provide real-time application tracking and communication. In combination with a personalized applicant portal, they enhance student experience and accelerate admissions.
    4. Academic progress tracking allows university and college staff to monitor students’ performance and quickly identify and react to difficulties and shortfalls.
    5. Communication tools enable seamless, omnichannel contact with students, partners, and stakeholders. Ensure the CRM you choose includes features for email, phone, chat, and social media communication to cover the entire student lifecycle. Additionally, some CRM solutions, like Creatio, offer an Enterprise Social Network (ESP) that connects employees and departments, facilitating quick information and document exchange.
    6. Event management tools streamline the organization and tracking of promotional events like open days and university fairs. They help automate registration, manage attendee lists, and provide real-time analytics and post-event reports, helping institutions assess event success and improve future planning.
    7. Analytics and reporting give you an overview of your institution's performance. Customizable analytics dashboards and reports allow you to quickly notice opportunities for growth and share your insights with colleagues and stakeholders.
    8. Governance and data security tools help manage your CRM and ensure the safety of student information.
    9. Integrations with other software allow you to connect accounting programs or Learning Management Systems to facilitate exchange of data and operational requests between them.
    10. Customization tools enable you to adapt the software to your needs. The degrees of customization may vary from customizing reports and dashboards to building custom CRM workflows and business apps with no-code tools.
    11. Scalability is important to make sure that your CRM can handle the increased number of operations as you grow. Verify that the CRM you choose can scale effectively while remaining cost-efficient.
    12. The speed of implementation can vary significantly based on your customization needs. To reduce implementation time, consider selecting no-code CRM, which is generally faster to deploy compared to those requiring professional developers for customization.

    10 Best Higher Education CRM

    We curated a list of top 10 CRM systems for higher education based on customer reviews and alignment with the criteria from the previous section. Some of these solutions were designed specifically to manage a student journey, while others are holistic solutions that offer customizations and integrations for the education sector.

    1. Creatio

    Let's start with an all-purpose CRM that gives you the ability to build custom tools to automate any process. Creatio is the best choice of holistic CRM for managing student experience and administrative tasks due to its composable architecture based on no-code. In addition to powerful turnkey capabilities and composable apps, it offers many components and blocks that you can drag and drop to build new workflows like admission approval or an action plan for student success.

    CRM Creatio includes three products for marketing, sales, and support services to cover the entire student lifecycle. It offers powerful analytics dashboards that empower you to oversee your organization's operations and performance complete with AI and machine learning tools that can identify patterns and trends in your data.

    student profile CRM Creatio

    Creatio offers more than 700 integrations to connect the CRM with other software you're using. Additionally, you can try an LMS built on Creatio's no-code platform - Education for Creatio. It enables you to manage educational events, streamline payments, manage classes and courses, and more.

    Discover how Creatio enhances performance and relationship management for educational institutions by reading the success story of Strathclyde Business School.

    Pros

    • all-in-one platform with integrated marketing, sales, and service functionalities.
    • user-friendly interface with customizable dashboards and workflows.
    • no-code capabilities and composable architecture that enables extensive customization even by non-technical users.
    • Creatio Copilot, an AI-assistant to help you build no-code tools and quickly access the insights you need
    • advanced AI capabilities with NBA/NBO recommendations.
    • robust analytics and reporting tools for tracking campaign performance and ROI.
    • extensive marketplace with over 700 third-party applications, add-ons, and connectors.
    • highly scalable solution suitable for growing businesses.

    Cons

    • some users may find the platform overwhelming at first, due to the multiple features and extensive customization options

    Pricing

    Creatio offers a flexible pricing structure, allowing you to choose between the all-in-one CRM or individual products. The core no-code platform starts at $25 per user per month, with a free trial available.

    Want to start managing student experience and administrative tasks with Creatio?

    2. Salesforce Education Cloud

    Salesforce Education Cloud is built on the foundation of the standard Salesforce CRM and offers a variety of capabilities tailored for educational institutions.

    For student and faculty management, Salesforce Education Cloud supports departments in their digital transformation efforts by migrating to a cloud-based management platform.

    Engagement tools within the platform provide valuable insights into current and prospective student engagement. These insights can be leveraged to power marketing campaigns and improve the overall education lifecycle, fostering stronger connections and better communication.

    salesforce

    Additionally, the Education Data Architecture feature creates a seamless experience for students, allowing them to stay connected to college life effortlessly. This integrated system ensures that all aspects of the student experience are cohesive and accessible.

    Salesforce Education Cloud is the best choice for schools already utilizing other Salesforce tools to integrate seamlessly in their ecosystem.

    Pros

    • Education Data Architecture for streamlined student data management
    • An active developer community
    • A multitude of integrations
    • Online registration management
    • A self-service portal for teachers

    Cons

    • Requires professional development team to design and implement customizations

    Pricing

    The prices start at $48 per user/month for a Sales and Service suite. However, if you need a solution to cover the entire student lifecycle, you'll have to pay a minimum of $81,25 per user/month for the Enterprise Edition.

    3. Monday

    Monday Sales CRM enables staff to deliver a consistent learning experience for students while providing ongoing support for alumni. The centralized dashboard allows department heads and staff to share ideas, manage tasks, and assign responsibilities efficiently.

    With various board views, including Kanban, Calendar, and Gantt Chart, users gain the transparency needed to effectively manage workloads.

    monday

    You can improve your communication and outreach methods by setting reminders for timely communications and automating messages to aspiring students, faculty members, and corporate partners.

    Pros

    • 70+ integration including Slack to Gmail to Microsoft Teams
    • An easy-to-use solution that doesn't require a lot of training
    • A mobile access to the platform

    Cons

    • Offers only limited customization capabilities and analytics

    Pricing

    The most affordable option costs $36 a month for three users. A free trial is available.

    4. HubSpot CRM

    Hubspot offers a free version of its CRM, which might be ideal for educational institutions with constrained marketing and software budgets.

    The CRM enables users to consolidate all data points through features such as email tracking and notifications, prospect tracking, meeting scheduling, and live chat tools. While premium features are available, HubSpot's fundamental functionalities excel in providing real-time customer data and reporting visibility.

    hubspot

    Pros

    • An intuitive interface and user-friendly tools
    • Robust marketing automation capabilities, encompassing email marketing, social media management, and content creation.
    • Over 50 diverse workflows to enhance operations at the HubSpot App Marketplace
    • Free version

    Cons

    • Limited customization options
    • Features such as predictive analytics and AI-powered insights are only available in higher-tier plans

    Pricing

    HubSpot provides a free CRM with add-ons available. Paid plans range from $45 per month for Starter to $3,800 per month for Enterprise.

    5. Zendesk for Education

    Zendesk for Education is a specialized segment of the Zendesk platform tailored for customer service in educational institutions. Recognizing the evolving landscape of remote learning, budget constraints, and heightened demands, Zendesk aims to assist schools in adapting to these changes effectively.

    Functioning as CRM software, Zendesk for Education facilitates seamless communication between schools, students, and families through various channels such as email, chat, phone, and social media.

    zendesk

    Pros

    • Robust support services
    • Knowledge base to empower administrative staff to solve issues quicker
    • Automated workflows for basic CRM processes

    Cons

    • Users often complain about Zendesk's customer service

    Pricing

    The starting price is $15 per user/month.

    6. Ellucian

    Ellucian CRM is a dedicated software platform tailored for colleges and universities and their respective support services. Ellucian focuses on enhancing constituent relationships, minimizing administrative expenses, optimizing workflows, and bolstering fundraising endeavors.

    Across various domains including alumni relations, campus life, and financial aid, the Ellucian platform offers intuitive key features aimed at providing support, ensuring consistency, and fostering engagement at nearly every stage of the collegiate lifecycle.

    ellucian

    Pros

    • Integrations with Elucian's ERP and Student Information Systems
    • Full suite of student lifecycle management features
    • Etranscripts to provide transcript authentication, production, and transfer in real time
    • Student housing management
    • Finance management tools

    Cons

    • The interface is somewhat dated and can be difficult to navigate

    Pricing

    Pricing is available on request.

    7. Slate

    Slate is a CRM platform meticulously crafted for admissions and enrollment professionals, catering to the entirety of the student engagement cycle, from initial application to alumni and donor relations.

    Integrating seamlessly with prominent higher education applications such as Banner, Colleague, PeopleSoft, PowerCampus, Jenzabar, and more, Slate boasts advanced document management features, extensive communication tools, video integration capabilities, payment features, and top-tier security options.

    slate

    Pros

    • Communications and outreach tools to facilitate connections via text messaging, email, voice, social media, and print
    • Marketing automations
    • AI Chatbot and Live Agent chat

    Cons

    • Inconvenient and confusing UI
    • Focused on US-based institutions

    Pricing

    Pricing is available on request.

    8. Keap

    Keap aims to enhance and automate sales and marketing processes, rendering it particularly advantageous for universities seeking a system to oversee outreach, recruitment, and enrollment efforts.

    The platform initiates touchpoints and automates follow-up with prospects until deals are finalized. Although the process may differ in higher education compared to traditional business sales, the features and progression remain similar. Automation tools empower universities to execute marketing campaigns more efficiently and minimize manual communication between staff and students.

    keap

    Pros

    • Automated lead capture gathers prospective student data from landing pages, contact forms, and social media channels
    • Robust audience segmentation tools
    • User-friendly interface

    Cons

    • Lack of industry-specific features

    Pricing

    The most affordable option costs $249 a month.

    9. Pipedrive

    Pipedrive stands out as one of the most user-friendly CRMs among its counterparts, making it particularly beneficial for schools aiming to bolster admissions or revenue channels. Emphasizing activity management, the platform enables staff to effectively prioritize tasks related to applicants, student enrollment, retention, and financial activities.

    Additionally, Pipedrive boasts industry-leading privacy and security features, crucial for various university campaigns, while its mobile capabilities offer flexibility and convenience to all users. While not a specialized CRM for education, Pipedrive is a great option for many higher education institutions in search of an easy-to-use CRM solution.

    pipedrive

    Pros

    • Easy to use
    • Robust integrations with Gsuite
    • Powerful marketing automation

    Cons

    • Limited customization capabilities

    Pricing

    The pricing starts at $15 per month.

    10. TargetX

    TargetX offers a comprehensive CRM solution tailored for higher education institutions to oversee the complete student lifecycle. It encompasses essential tools for education like

    • TargetX Recruitment, empowering admissions processes with CRM functionality customized for higher education;
    • TargetX Retention, optimizing the student experience through built-in success initiatives to bolster retention;
    • Community College, facilitating recruitment and support throughout the learning journey;
    • and TargetX Insights, enabling data-driven insights to enhance ROI

    TargetX is a perfect choice of a comprehensive CRM for education to cover education data needs, oversee recruitment and admissions processes, conduct enrollment management, and analyze data on student attainment and success.

    targetx

    Pros

    • Enhanced email marketing with an email designer and templates
    • Powerful analytics
    • Event management features
    • Easy customization for data fields and dashboards

    Cons

    • Outdated user interface

    Pricing

    The pricing starts at $15 per month.

    Use CRM for Education to Support Students, Academics, and Administration

    Higher education institutions face substantial challenges managing vast amounts of data and communication. A CRM is indispensable in streamlining operations and supporting the myriad tasks within colleges and universities.

    For those seeking a robust and customizable CRM, try Creatio's free trial. With its user-friendly interface, customizable workflows, and advanced AI capabilities, Creatio empowers educational institutions to successfully navigate the complexities of student management and achieve operational excellence.

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