Our moment in time

Insights Article - Our moment in time

Key takeaways 

  • Students demand technology that improves their experience 
  • Retention and completion rates are still too low 
  • Technology can help turn this around

Back in February, I shared a bit about the philosophy guiding my first year as Ellucian President and CEO: Listen. Learn. Lead. I wrote that one of the things I’d learned is that this is a special moment in time for colleges and universities around the world. Months later, I saw this first-hand as the largest, most diverse community in higher education technology came together at Ellucian Live 2018. 

It was an incredible week at the San Diego Convention Center, where customers, partners, and employees shared the best practices and new ideas that are revolutionizing the campus experience. The presentations were engaging. The meetings were insightful. And the inspiring keynotes delivered by former Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai filled us all with excitement for the future and a true sense of responsibility for the mission we serve.

What underscored that this really is our moment in time was the fact that every attendee was united by a common purpose and working together towards a common goal: Turning disruption into opportunity. Students, faculty, staff and administrators are all evolving into digital consumers. At the same time, the resources available to serve them are in short supply. That means our customers have to do more with less, and deliver what’s new with less.

But if we succeed, we not only have the potential to meet higher expectations of the campus experience; we have the power to improve educational outcomes as well. How do I know? Because students are telling us so — and they are the ones setting the bar.

Right now, 97 percent of students say technology outside the classroom is as important as technology inside the classroom. Approximately 87 percent say a school’s “tech savvy” is important when applying. And 40 percent say that dealing with administrative tasks is so tough that it cuts into study time. These statistics show that (even though we are not in the classroom) our work matters at the core institutional level. We have the power to keep students engaged and on the path to completion. And, today, that’s more important than ever.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, the total higher education completion rate in the U.S. is just 57%. After six years, nearly one in three students drop out entirely. While these numbers are shocking, they’re not unique. In fact, they mirror what we see in many other parts of the world, where international institutions are not only focusing on retention and completion, but managing huge influxes of new students at the same time.

I’ve had conversations with college presidents about the pain of losing a student. It’s personal for them. As the parent of a college freshman, it’s personal for me. But it’s also a significant financial concern. One president told me that for every percentage point drop in enrollment, her institution loses $6 million in revenue. And where our local economies are concerned, they lose as much as $278,000 for every student who doesn’t cross the stage with a degree in hand.

This is our moment in time because the Ellucian community has the power put students first and turn these statistics around. And if what I saw from our customers at Ellucian Live offers any indication, we will do just that.

Take California’s University of La Verne, who is implementing next-generation solutions to improve its enrollment processes. By empowering its CIO to play a truly strategic role in student recruiting, La Verne is leveraging technology to boost its enrollment numbers, attract the students best positioned to succeed on its campus, and greatly diminish the time it takes to admit a student and start him or her on the path to success.

Then there is the Higher Colleges of Technology in Abu Dhabi, which is taking advantage of a universal higher education data model to improve student service. By looking at integration of systems in new ways, it is unlocking insights that were once trapped in data silos and providing administrators with all the information they need to make the right decisions at the right time.

And, just take a look at Universidad Interamericana in Puerto Rico, which last summer found itself directly in Hurricane Maria’s path. Because its systems run in the Ellucian Higher Education Cloud, it was able to pay its people just eight days after the storm. It was able to pay vendors for the diesel that fueled its recovery. And while other institutions impacted by the storm lost entire semesters, Interamericana’s students were back in the classroom in just two weeks.

These stories and the hundreds like them that were shared at Ellucian Live say a lot about our community’s commitment to education—and they prove our ability to follow-though on our vision of a truly empowered campus. Rather than wilt in the face of disruption (as 52 percent of Fortune 500 companies have since 2000), these institutions are taking their destinies into their own hands. Technology is no longer the problem; it’s the solution. And that’s how I know this is our moment in time to shine.

Speaking at Harvard in 2013, our keynote speaker Malala Yousafzai said, “Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow’s reality.” That’s what Ellucian Live 2018 was all about. Building the future. Leading the way. Rolling up our sleeves and doing the hard work that makes an empowered campus not just a vision, but reality. This event was power, passion and performance personified—and it filled me with anticipation for what’s next.

Laura Ipsen is President and CEO of Ellucian.

Meet the authors
Laura Ipsen
Laura K. Ipsen
President & Chief Executive Officer

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