Apr 05 2024
Data Analytics

What Is Student Lifecycle Management, and How Does It Contribute to Student Success?

Institutions have an opportunity to tap into widespread data and thoroughly customize the student experience with CRM technology.

The attendance, performance and other data students generate during each academic year can paint a vivid picture of their college experience, including what factors contribute to or undermine the likelihood that they’ll graduate.

That information could prove increasingly important as institutions edge closer to the enrollment cliff, when a reduction in high school graduating class size is expected to cause a steep drop-off in higher education enrollment as early as 2025.

Although enrollment increased in fall 2023, it decreased in the three years prior, according to a National Student Clearinghouse report.

“From a metrics perspective, we know there is a trend of declining enrollment,” says Balakrishnan Subramanian, vice president and general manager of education at Salesforce. “One of the outcomes is that universities are really focused on retention because for every student that drops out, there is a financial impact in terms of future lost tuition revenue.”

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CRM Technology Can Help Position Students for Success

To improve the odds of students reaching graduation, many schools use customer relationship management solutions, such as Salesforce’s Education Cloud, to support student lifecycle management initiatives that track and assess students’ interactions with the institution.

California State University San Marcos, for example, uses Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, which allows the institution to glean information from centralized data resources and personalize current, past and potential students’ journeys, according to Paige Johnson, Microsoft’s vice president of education marketing.

“This customization improves engagement across the whole lifecycle, from high school as prospective students, to successful students, even to alumni making a difference in the community,” Johnson says. “You can improve student experiences, manage the school’s relationship with them, use predictive analytics to improve learning outcomes and boost marketing and institutional performance.”

Colleges and universities can integrate data into Salesforce’s Education Cloud solution from separate sources — such as student information systems, financial records and other collected information, which users, ranging from advising staff to alumni relationship officers and recruiters, can access via dashboards.

The information may help schools identify common roadblocks and achievements among groups or entire classes of students, which could indicate that operational or other changes would be advantageous. Faculty and staff can also use the platform to pinpoint when specific students might benefit from assistance.

EXPLORE: Why it may be time to consider Data Center as a Service in higher education.

“More and more of our customers are using different data sources to learn about what issues they might be having and how they can help with their outcomes,” Subramanian says. “A student who maybe is not enrolled for a full course load in a particular semester and is falling behind in their tuition, potentially they have a financial hardship.”

When a certain type of intervention is needed, advisers can assign items from a library of care plans within the solution. These are templates that provide a set of goals to help both the student and the adviser to address the issue. As the student completes tasks in the plan, the adviser receives updates.

“We work with our customers to create a unified profile of the student,” Subramanian says. “The adviser can look at this data to devise the best approaches for the student going forward.”

Student Data Can Highlight Chances to Connect

Arizona State University instituted Salesforce’s solution more than a decade ago to give faculty and staff a holistic view of the student lifecycle, from the application phase to enrollment and academic activities, says Kaleb Anderson, senior director of constituent relationship management and Salesforce technology for EdPlus (an ASU enterprise program that focuses on scalable digital teaching and learning design and delivery).

When a student decides to change majors, for example, the school wants to do more than just have one department forward the call to another, Anderson says.

“How do we prevent them from falling through the cracks?” he says. “That was the genesis of it all, this idea that we weren't really servicing our students if we didn't have one system to see everything that was going on with them.”

ASU has used several Amazon Web Services tools, including AWS Lambda, App Flow and Simple Storage Service (S3), to create what Anderson calls “the connective tissue” that allows data to be moved into the Salesforce platform from the school’s disparate systems, so employees can be alerted about opportunities to engage with students.

The university has found that pairing data insights with personal contact is an effective way to provide support, particularly for online students who may not have the same access to career and academic advisers as students who attend classes on campus.

If, say, a student registers for two challenging courses in one semester or doesn’t log in to a learning management system for a few days, those events can prompt a case to be created in Salesforce. One of the university’s success coaches will then reach out using the student’s preferred method of contact to discuss how to help.

“There's a range of suggestions based on what the system is telling them about what is going on with the student,” Anderson says. “At a minimum, that success coach is going to send an email to the student and ask if everything's OK, offer a time to meet and give them a phone call or a text message just to see if everything's fine.”

CRM Solutions Can Also Assist with Well-Being Initiatives

ASU’s goal when integrating Salesforce’s technology into its student lifecycle management process extends beyond just tracking and analyzing information, according to Anderson.

“We could do that with any business intelligence tool,” he says. “We want to pull all of that into a place where we can not only report on it and have some insights but put it into action, which is where Salesforce and CRM technology is really helpful. You can have a system that allows you to engage every single one of your students.”

With a growing number of schools placing an emphasis on mental health and wellness, the response-oriented capabilities that student lifecycle management solutions offer can be particularly beneficial, Subramanian says.

In a spring 2023 American College Health Association survey, about three-quarters of undergraduate students (74 percent) said they’d experienced moderate to serious psychological distress.

To gauge how students are doing, Subramanian says, some colleges and universities mount outreach efforts that include short surveys, which essentially function as a quick pulse check.

“A key strategy is to not wait until things have really escalated, but be in touch on a constant basis,” he says. “Many universities have invested in health and well-being; they even have medical professional on staff. The barrier tends to be that students are either not aware of it or hesitate to access these services. Institutions can look at these early signs and be very proactive in connecting these students to those resources.”

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