Four Ways Higher Ed IT Can Improve Student Retention and Satisfaction


Colleges spend a lot to recruit students—but it’s often a losing investment. According to an Educational Policy Institute study, 1,669 U.S. colleges and universities lost nearly $16.5 billion to student attrition in a single year. Why? An overwhelming 84 percent of transfers were due to poor customer service, whether feeling that the “college doesn’t care,” general lack of responsiveness, low perceived value, or scheduling issues.

Technology can help you keep the student experience positive, hassle-free, and connected. Online offerings and virtual classrooms are the obvious game-changers, of course, but the student experience is also includes the behind-the-scenes administrative processes, like paying tuition or registering for class.

Four ways IT can be a ‘college customer service’ game-changer

The right technology solutions can contribute to a seamless, streamlined student experience with your school’s administration functions. Following are four elements of a retention-friendly approach to IT:

1) A focus on cybersecurity. With the average cost of a cybersecurity breach recently reaching an all-time high of $245 per record, an incident can devastate an institution’s finances and reputation. Since the student experience depends on connectivity, it is essential to defend your data and networks. For example, you could adopt a sophisticated cloud strategy and store student records across different databases to limit a breach. Or, you could ensure that the right tools and processes are in place to keep employees from sharing confidential HR information. Whatever your path, cybersecurity must be a top priority at all levels of administration.

“The right technology solutions can contribute to a seamless, streamlined student experience with your school’s administration functions.”

2) Deep infrastructure for anytime, anywhere connectivity. Most of today’s students are connecting to the campus network with two or more devices at the same time. And with today’s fast-changing advances in technology, you’re going to need to deliver more wireless and network capacity every year—while avoiding over-investing. So, how much should you invest now? Or next year? Take a close look at your current network bandwidth, monitor to ensure you’re keeping up with demand, and revisit the strategy often.

3) Apps designed to meet student expectations. One new rule of thumb: Make as many services as possible available online—ideally with user-friendly chatbots. The simpler the student experience with, say, making appointments at the health clinic, signing up for classes, or applying for financial aid, the better. Also, never assume that students want the same features that your CIO or dean appreciates. Work closely and proactively with students to get feedback on potential programs.

4) Data and analytics to uncover preferences. Mining big data to uncover trends, like factors that attract students and motivate them to stay—or leave—can go a long way toward improving retention. Georgia State, for example, invested in analytics to reveal how often students were choosing the wrong classes for their major, or taking advanced classes too soon. Armed with this data, the university improved its counseling efforts and achieved its goal of reducing dropouts and improved graduation rates by the next academic year.

People make the difference

Technology is an essential component of today’s student satisfaction, but it also is dependent on excellent customer service from the institution’s employees. After all, it is the people that make the difference. Not only is IT a critical enabler for employees to provide excellent service, but it also provides the tools and capabilities for students to have an excellent educational experience. To drive student acquisition and retention, CIOs must continually monitor and measure their tech investments.


March 12, 2018