The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) released a new report today about the use of Constituent Relationship Management systems (CRMs) in higher education to support full lifecycle management. Lifecycle management is a practice near and dear to our hearts here at Higher Ed Live, where we strive to break down institutional silos that exist among higher education institutions, particularly in the areas of admissions, student affairs, advancement and marketing.

The report reveals two important trends. First, colleges are under increasing pressure to support the diverse needs of students. CRM tools can support an institution’s understanding of student enrollment choices, retention, and overall achievement. Second, colleges are under increasing pressure from an economic standpoint to leverage data. As a result, technologies that manage this data in a way that offers business practice efficiencies should be high on radar of institutions’ senior leadership, especially as these technologies relate to day-to-day business practices, policies and staffing.

AACRAO’s 2014-2015 State of CRM Use in Higher Education Report was designed to measure the extent of ownership of CRM applications at higher ed institutions and to assess their impacts.

“We are passionate about providing our members with resources to make a broader impact on student success at their institutions,” said Wendy Kilgore, AACRAO director of research and managing consultant. “This report is intended to develop a baseline understanding of how institutions are leveraging their CRMs today, so that we can support the strategic use of relationship management and data to ensure the success of all students throughout their entire education.”

Key findings:

Eighty percent of respondents reported seeing increased practice efficiency with the use of CRMs— including efficiencies in advising, alumni/development, registration, and student support service. However, despite the increased efficiency reported, two-thirds of respondents indicated that their institution is not maximizing the use of their CRM. Roadblocks to “maximizing the use” of CRM include having enough time for training and implementation as well as a lack of human capital to manage the system and its processes.

Implementation of CRMs has a significant influence on changes in practice and staffing. Eighty-two percent of respondents indicated there had been changes in practice; 59 percent indicated there had been changes in staffing.

CRMs are most likely to be used to support admissions and recruiting. Fifty-six percent of respondents indicated use of the CRM for both functions; Career Services was the least likely to be supported by a CRM.

Few institutions (only 3 percent) are using their CRM to provide student lifecycle management support.

Higher ed institutions are not fully integrating their CRM data with their Student Information System (SIS) data. Only one-third of users have all of the data they need for analysis and planning imported into their SIS. Forty-eight percent indicated that, “Yes, some of the data we need” is being shared, while 14% indicated data was not being shared.

The majority of respondents (59 percent) indicated their institutions have only been “Moderately successful” in the overall use of the CRM. Three percent reported their use “Not Successful.”

Download the complete report.

This study, sponsored by Hobsons, is the first of its kind to offer insight into the use of CRMs and their impact on higher education practice, staffing and policy in the United States.


Article Author

Ashley Budd

Broadcast Producer, Host of Higher Ed Special Edition
Director of Digital Marketing, Cornell University

Ashley Budd is a digital strategist and designer based in upstate New York. She specializes in bringing offline experiences online. Ashley is director of digital marketing at Cornell University serving Alumni Affairs and Development. Prior to joining the team at Cornell, Ashley spent more than five years in Enrollment Management and Career Services at Rochester Institute of Technology. Ashley speaks about college admissions, digital fundraising, communication and media technologies.


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