Modernize Higher Education with Student Information Systems

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If you're feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of student information you manage, you're not alone. Most leaders in higher education institutions are grappling with the challenges of managing student data in today's digital age.

As universities and colleges continue to grow, the amount of data associated with students—including their academic records, financial aid information, and personal data—has increased significantly. 

Modern student information systems are necessary to streamline the management of student records. In this article, we'll explore the need for student information systems in higher education and provide guidance on how to choose the right solution for your institution.

What is a student information system?

A student information system, or SIS, is a software application specifically designed to manage student-related data in educational institutions. It serves as a core system of record (SOR) for higher education institutions and supports routine administrative and academic activities. An SIS can manage a variety of data related to students, such as academic records, personal information, and financial data.

For small-scale educational institutes, a student information system can be particularly beneficial as it can streamline many administrative tasks that traditionally involve manual steps and reduce the burden on staff, allowing them to concentrate on the other tasks on their plate. For instance, an SIS can simplify the process of registering students for courses, managing grades and attendance, and creating transcripts. It can also help administrators manage student accounts, fees, and financial aid from a single source of truth.

Providing a centralized repository for student data is one of the key benefits of a student information system. This means that staff members can access the information they need quickly and simply without having to search through multiple systems or databases. It can also reduce errors and improve data accuracy, as information only needs to be entered once and is then available across the system.

Student profile example in SIS from CollegeOne Suite

Student profile example in SIS from CollegeOne Suite (Source)

Use of student information systems

Student information systems serve a variety of functions in higher education institutions. They are designed to manage student data and support administrative activities in a streamlined and efficient manner in four general areas: academic activity, advising interactions, business transactions, and educational outcomes.

Academic activity

Many student information systems include a course catalog and registration system. This allows students to easily browse available courses and register for classes, streamlining the registration process and ensuring that students can enroll in the courses they need to complete their degree requirements.

An SIS can also include functionality to track student attendance, providing valuable data for faculty and administrators. By tracking attendance, institutions can identify students who may be struggling and provide help to support their success. This also helps institutions comply with federal and state regulations related to student attendance and financial aid.

Advising interactions

Student information systems can also provide advice on a student's academic path. Degree audits provide real-time information on a student's progress toward their degree requirements. They outline the courses that have been completed, the courses that are currently in progress, and the courses still needed to complete a degree.

The operational reporting features of a student information system provide real-time data on enrollment, course availability, and other critical information that can help you make informed decisions about your academic offerings. These systems also allow you to manage enrollment, ensuring that your students have access to the courses they need to complete their degree while providing them with the flexibility to take courses that interest them.

An SIS can also provide robust academic advising and planning tools. With an SIS, advisors can help students to explore different academic pathways, plan their course of study, and make better decisions about their academic future.

Business transactions

In addition to managing academic activity and advising interactions, a student information system can also handle a variety of business transactions. An SIS can support the financial aid process by managing applications, awarding aid, and tracking disbursements.

They can also manage student accounts receivable by tracking tuition and fees, managing payment plans, and collecting payments from students. This provides a single source of truth that can reduce errors and improve efficiency, ensuring that students receive accurate billing information and institutions receive timely payments.

With an SIS, institutions can also track prospective students throughout the recruitment process. This can include tracking communication with students, managing applications and transcripts, and providing personalized guidance.

Educational outcome

One of the most important functions of any student information system is its ability to track educational outcomes. Using an SIS, institutions can track prospective students throughout the admissions process, from initial inquiry to final enrollment. It can track communication with students, manage applications and transcripts, and provide personalized support and guidance.

In addition, an SIS is a centralized repository for academic records, allowing staff members and students to access grades and other academic data they need quickly and easily from a single location. They also provide a powerful degree audit functionality, informing students about the courses they need to take to fulfill degree requirements and monitor their progress toward graduation.

What are the benefits of a student information system?

A student information system is a powerful tool that provides educational institutions with a variety of benefits, including:

  • Streamlined administrative tasks: An SIS can automate many administrative tasks, from registration and enrollment to financial aid and student accounts receivable. This can reduce the burden on staff and improve efficiency across the institution, saving time and allowing them to focus on other important tasks.

  • Improved data accuracy: By providing a centralized store for student data, a student information system can improve data accuracy and reduce errors in record-keeping. This can ensure that staff members have access to accurate, up-to-date information they need when they need it, without having to find it in multiple applications and data stores.

  • Enhanced communication with students: An SIS can provide personalized support and guidance to students throughout their academic journey. By tracking communication with students and managing applications and transcripts, a student information system can help to streamline the recruitment and enrollment process and improve communication with students.

  • Improved student success and retention: With an SIS, institutions can track a wide range of data related to student progress and academic achievement, including enrollment patterns, retention rates, and graduation rates. By tracking these metrics over time, administrators can identify areas for improvement and come up with solutions to enhance student success, making it easier for them to stay on track with their academic goals.

  • Improved institutional performance: An SIS can provide a comprehensive view of student data and institutional performance, allowing administrators to make data-driven decisions and improve operational efficiency. By tracking metrics like enrollment trends, retention rates, and student demographics, institutions can find those areas where they can improve.

Key features to look for in an SIS platform

Many software vendors are developing SaaS SIS solutions for higher education institutions, and they are at different stages of development. Currently, there are three main categories of SIS offerings:

  • On-premises: This traditional approach involves installing the software on the institution's servers and maintaining the system in-house. It requires significant IT resources and expertise to manage, including hardware and software installation, upgrades, and maintenance.

  • Cloud-hosted: This type of SIS involves hosting the software on a remote server and accessing it through the internet. This essentially means using a web application that users can access from anywhere they have an internet connection instead of using a desktop app or intranet-based app.

  • SaaS (Software-as-a-Service): This type of cloud-hosted solution allows institutions to access the SIS software through the internet. The software is hosted and maintained by the vendor, and institutions pay for the services they need. SaaS SIS vendors also provide regular software updates and maintenance.

As in other areas of technology, cloud and SAAS solutions are considered game changers. They offer feature parity with existing solutions, reduce the need for customizations or huge architectural changes, and often make adding new features as easy as clicking a button or upgrading a license. When it comes to features student information systems have, here are some to look for:

  • Admissions management: Find a student information system that can streamline the registration and admission process for existing and new students and record pertinent student data. Look for features that allow you to track communication with students, manage applications and transcripts, and give personalized support and guidance.

  • Gradebook: A modern student information system should provide a secure place to track students' scores and grades on course materials, exams, and participation. This can provide timely feedback to students and faculty alike, ultimately leading to a better educational experience.

  • Reporting and statistics: Look for an SIS that allows teachers and administrators to create customizable reports about students, courses, and matriculation. This can help administrators to make decisions based on real-time data and improve operational efficiency.

  • Student management: Find an SIS that has a student management feature to track personal information, such as contact information, educational needs, and tuition. This will help improve communication with students and provide personalized support and guidance throughout the academic journey.

As higher education institutions continue to adapt to changing student needs, using a modern SIS platform becomes even more important. With the increasing amount of student data, it's more important than ever to have a single source of truth for that data that can be easily accessed and used to inform academic and operational decisions.

A student information system can help improve student success and retention by giving them personalized support and guidance all the way through graduation. By tracking metrics like enrollment trends, graduation rates, and retention rates, institutions can identify areas for improvement and implement targeted interventions to improve student success.

Overall, a modern student information system is essential for higher education institutions that want to stay competitive and meet the evolving needs of students. By selecting a platform that is easy to use, flexible and scalable, secure, and integrated with other systems, institutions can ensure that they are able to meet the unique needs of their students both now and in the future.

To find out more information that can help higher education institutions, visit these resources: